The American Family Association
What is the American Family Association?
The American Family Association (AFA) is a United States non-profit organization that promotes fundamentalist Christian values. It opposes same-sex marriage, pornography, and abortion. It also takes a position on a variety of other public policy goals and has lobbied against the Employee Free Choice Act. It was founded in 1977 by Donald Wildmon as the National Federation for Decency and is headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The AFA defined itself as "a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on television and other media," later switching their stated emphasis to "moral issues that impact the family." It engages in activism efforts, including boycotts, buycotts, action alert emails, publications on the AFA's web sites or in the AFA Journal, broadcasts on American Family Radio, and lobbying.
The organization is accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and posted a 2011 budget of over US$16 million. AFA owns 200 American Family Radio stations in 33 states, seven affiliate stations in seven states, and one affiliate TV station KAZQ TV) in New Mexico.
AFA has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as of November 2010 for the "propagation of known falsehoods" and the use of "demonizing propaganda" against LGBT people.
Reverend Donald Wildmon served as chairman of AFA until he announced his retirement on March 3, 2010. His son, Tim, is president of AFA. AFA is governed by an independent Board of Directors. AFA Journal is a monthly publication with a circulation of 180,000 containing news, features, columns, and interviews. In addition to the publication, AFA Journal articles are made available online.
The journal reviews the content of prime-time television shows, categorizing them based on profanity, sex, violence, homosexuality, substance abuse, "anti-Christian" content, or "political correctness". The categorization is accompanied by short descriptions of the content of the episode under review. The review also lists the advertisers of each show and invites readers to contact the advertisers or television networks to express concern over program content.
American Family Radio (AFR) is a network of approximately 200 AFA-owned radio stations broadcasting Christian-oriented programming.
OneNewsNow.com (formerly AgapePress), the AFA news division, provides online audio newscasts and a daily digest of news articles, Associated Press stories, and opinion columns.
The AFA Foundation is a planned giving program that allows participants the ability to set up bequests, charitable gift annuities, trusts and wills, that will provide income with tax advantages while supporting charity. In July 2011 the Charity Navigator gave the foundation a four star rating for sound fiscal management.
Center for Law and Policy, the legal and political arm of the AFA, was shut down in 2007. It specialized in First Amendment cases. The Center for Law and Policy lobbied legislative bodies, drafted legislation, and filed religious-discrimination lawsuits on behalf of individuals. Chief among its efforts were the recognition of Christmas in seasonal print advertisements; the criminalization of homosexuality; lobbying against same-sex marriage, and in opposition of equal-rights and hate-crime legislation that would include sexual orientation and gender identity under categories already protected and advocating censorship of print and electronic media.
Campaigns and issues
The AFA has a history of activism by organizing its members in boycotts and letter-writing campaigns aimed at promoting socially conservative values in the United States. The AFA has promoted boycotts of a number of television shows, movies, and businesses that the group considers to have promoted indecency, obscenity, or homosexuality. In addition to promoting activism via mail to AFA members, 3.4 million subscribers receive AFA "Action Alerts" via email.
The AFA has boycotted companies for various reasons, most often relating to Christmas controversies, pornography, support of pro-choice activism, support of violence or sexual content in entertainment, and support of LGBT rights, including same-sex partner employee benefits. These organizations include: 7-Eleven, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Airlines, American Girl, Blockbuster Video, Burger King, Calvin Klein, Carl's Jr., Clorox, Comcast, Crest, Ford, Hallmark Cards, Hardee's, Kmart, Kraft Foods, S. C. Johnson & Son, Movie Gallery, Microsoft, MTV, Paramount Pictures, Time Warner, Universal Studios, DreamWorks, Mary Kay, NutriSystem, Old Navy, IKEA, Sears, Pampers, Procter & Gamble, Target, Tide, Walt Disney Company, and PepsiCo. The AFA has criticized the People's Republic of China for its persecution of Christians.
In 1986, 7-Eleven stopped selling Playboy and Penthouse magazines after a two-year boycott by the AFA. In 1989 the AFA boycotted WaldenBooks in an attempt to persuade the company to stop selling those same magazines. As a result, WaldenBooks launched an advertisement campaign against censorship, asserting First Amendment rights. WaldenBooks, American Booksellers Association, the Council for Periodical Distributors Association, the International Periodical Distributors Association, and Duval Bibb Services launched a lawsuit against the AFA in October 1989, under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Florida State RICO Acts, which protect an organization's right to conduct business without harassment or threats. The case was settled by the parties without a court ruling.
Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLeaR-TV), affiliated with the AFA, has approached sponsors of programs that it considered immoral. In 1989, CLeaR-TV successfully persuaded General Mills, Ralston Purina, Domino's Pizza, Mazda, and Noxell to withdraw advertising from Saturday Night Live. AFA also boycotted PepsiCo that year also for supporting Madonna, whose video for "Like a Prayer" Wildmon felt was sacrilegious.
During the summer of 1993 the AFA purchased full-page ads in The New York Times, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times denouncing the sexual and violent content of the upcoming ABC police drama NYPD Blue. It also urged ABC affiliates not to broadcast the program and citizens to boycott sponsors of Blue. About a quarter of the 225 existing ABC stations followed suit, but such affiliates were mostly in rural areas of the US. The AFA campaign increased hype for the show in larger American media markets, and Blue became one of the most popular shows of the 1993–1994 television season.
In 1996, the AFA launched a boycott against Walt Disney Company when the company began giving benefits to same-sex employees in domestic partnerships. The AFA has claimed that Michael Eisner, the CEO of The Disney Company, "was involved in a media group that actively promoted the homosexual agenda" and was pushing the "gay agenda". The AFA ended the boycott in the spring of 2005 after Eisner left the company. Tim Wildmon stated "We feel after nine years of boycotting Disney we have made our point."
In 2003, the AFA, with the American Decency Association, Focus on the Family, and Citizens for Community Values, lobbied and boycotted Abercrombie & Fitch, calling on "A&F to stop using blatant pornography in its quarterly catalog." In December 2003, the company "recalled the holiday catalog from all its stores, saying it needed the space on the counter for a new perfume" and stated it would stop printing catalogs and start a new campaign.
In 2005 the AFA boycotted the company American Girl, seller of dolls and accessories, because the company supported the charity Girls, Inc., which the AFA called "a pro-abortion, pro-lesbian advocacy group".
In Spring 2005 the AFA launched a boycott of Ford for advertising in gay magazines, donating to gay rights organizations, and sponsoring gay pride celebrations. After meeting with representatives of the group, Ford announced it was curtailing ads in a number of major gay-themed publications, due not by cultural but by "cost-cutting" factors.
That statement was contradicted by the AFA, which claimed it had a "good faith agreement" that Ford would cease such ads. Soon afterwards, as a result of a strong outcry from the gay community, Ford backtracked and announced it would continue ads in gay publications, in response to which the AFA denounced Ford for "violating" the agreement, and renewed threats of a boycott. The boycott ended in March 2008.
On Independence Day 2008, the AFA announced a boycott of McDonald's, which had a director on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. In October 2008, AFA announced the end of its boycott following the declaration to be "neutral on same-sex marriage or any 'homosexual agenda' as defined by the American Family Association" by McDonald's in a memo to franchisees.
On August 25, 2008, the AFA announced their boycott of Hallmark Cards for their decision to start selling same-sex wedding cards.
In December 2008, the AFA issued an "Action Alert" which called for members to protest about the Campbell Soup Company, which had purchased two two-page advertisements in the December 2008 and January 2009 issues of LGBT magazine The Advocate. The Action Alert said that Campbell's "sent a message that homosexual parents constitute a family and are worthy of support". The advertisements showed a married lesbian couple with their son. AFA spokesman Randy Sharp said "the Campbell Soup Company is saying 'we approve of homosexual marriage.'"
In November 2009, the AFA called for a boycott against clothing retailer The Gap, Inc., claiming the retailer's holiday television advertising campaign failed to mention Christmas. "Christmas has historically been very good for commerce. But now Gap wants the commerce but no Christmas" wrote an AFA spokesperson.
The Gap soon released an advertisement in response to the boycott, specifically referring to Christmas, albeit with a number of other holidays that take place at the same time of year and added the word "Christmas" to in-store decor.
In 2012 the AFA led a boycott against Archie Comics when they published a comic book featuring a same-sex marriage.
In July 2012, they considered boycotting Google due to Google's "Legalize Love" campaign which supports LGBT rights.
On April 16, 2007, following the Virginia Tech Massacre, the AFA released a video titled The Day They Kicked God out of the Schools, in which God tells a student that students were killed in schools because God isn't allowed in schools anymore. The video claims that the shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine, among others, are in part the result of: decreased discipline in schools; no prayer in schools; sex out of wedlock; rampant violence in TV, movies, and music; or abortions.
Speechless: Silencing the Christians is a 2008 documentary series hosted by Janet Parshall. The documentary series explains the AFA's position against the drive towards political correctness, and how various factors, such as hate crime laws and other discriminatory actions, are threatening the Christians' existence. In 2009, a one-hour special version of the program was produced and aired on commercial television stations, where AFA purchased the air time.
The AFA has repeatedly lobbied Congress to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. For example, in 2000, the AFA issued a press release condemning the NEA's funding of One of the Guys, a controversial book by Robert Clark Young described by a senior AFA official as "scatological."
The complaint from the AFA was that the book included sexually explicit material, in particular, a description of a young woman extracting razor blades from her vagina during a performance in a sex club. In a Washington Post editorial in response to the complaint, Young stated, "I find it strange that an organization that claims to uphold family values and to oppose the federal funding of obscenity is not protesting the part of the military budget that goes to support pederasty in the Far East."
Speaking in defense of Mike Huckabee's statements that people with AIDS should be quarantined, the head of the AFA of Pennsylvania said Huckabee's comments were being taken out of context, and that the measures Huckabee recommended in reference to people with AIDS were appropriate.
View on media
Wildmon has been accused of saying that he believes Hollywood and the theater world are heavily influenced by Jewish people, and that television network executives and advertisers have a genuine hostility towards Christians.
View on other religions
On November 28, 2006, following the election of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, the AFA released an "Action Alert." The Action Alert, entitled "A first for America...The Koran replaces the Bible at swearing-in oath: What book will America base its values on, the Bible or the Koran?", requested subscribers to write to their Congressional representatives and urge them to create a "law making the Bible the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of representatives and senators."
On July 13, 2007, a Hindu prayer was conducted in the U.S. Senate. Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple, read the prayer at the invitation of Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who defended his invitation based on the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. AFA sent out an "Action Alert" to its members to email, write letters, or call their Senators to oppose the Hindu prayer, stating it is "seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god."
The "alert" stated that "since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto One Nation Under God." The convocation by Zed was in fact disrupted by three protesters from a different Fundamentalist Christian activist group, Operation Save America, in the gallery; they reportedly shouted "this is an abomination", and called themselves "Christians and patriots".
On August 10, 2010, Bryan Fischer, AFA's director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, posted on his blog that "Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government."
This was in response to a 1991 memorandum circulated by the Muslim Brotherhood where they call for "grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house", as well as the ongoing debate about building the Park 51 mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. Fischer continued: "Because of this subversive ideology, Muslims cannot claim religious freedom protections under the First Amendment."
The AFA expresses public concern over what it refers to as the "homosexual agenda". They state that the Bible "declares that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful" and that they have "sponsored several events reaching out to homosexuals and letting them know there is love and healing at the Cross of Christ.”
The AFA actively lobbies against the social acceptance of homosexual behavior ("We oppose the homosexual movement's efforts to convince our society that their behavior is normal"). The AFA also actively promotes the idea that homosexuality is a choice and that sexual orientation can be changed through ex-gay ministries.
In 1996, responding to a complaint from an AFA member who was participating in an AFA campaign targeting gay journalists, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram transferred a gay editor out of a job that occasionally required him to work with schoolchildren. The AFA targeted the editor due to cartoon strips he created, which were published in gay magazines. The paper apparently acted on the AFA's unsubstantiated statement that the editor was "preoccupied with the subjects of pedophilia and incest."
In 2000, vice president Tim Wildmon spoke out against gay-straight alliance clubs in schools, stating, "We view these kinds of clubs as an advancement of the homosexual cause." In 2004, the AFA raised concerns about the movie Shark Tale because the group believed the movie was designed to promote the acceptance of gay rights by children.
On the October 11, 2005, AFA broadcast, Tim Wildmon agreed with a caller that cable networks like Animal Planet and HGTV featured "evidence of homosexuality and lesbian people" and added that "you have to watch out for children's programs today as well because they'll slip it in there as well." In 2007, the AFA spoke out against IKEA for featuring gay families in their television ads. In June 2008, the AFA protested a Heinz television advertisement, shown in the United Kingdom, which showed two men kissing, which Heinz then withdrew.
The AFA's founder, Don Wildmon, was "instrumental" in initially setting up the Arlington Group, a networking vehicle for social conservatives focusing on gay marriage.
"The American Family Association" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.