Focus on the Family

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Focus on the Family is an American evangelical non-profit organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and founded in 1977 by James Dobson. Its mission statement is "To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide."[1] The group, and its subsidiaries, are key organizations in the American Christian Right movement that has risen to prominence since the early 1980s, and promotes conservative and religious family values. As with many U.S. groups for many ideologies, while the press may refer to positions taken by the name of the main tax-exempt body, political, as distinct from cultural, positions are taken by subsidiaries.

Popular culture

Focus on the Family produces "family-safe" audio drama through their Radio Theatre ministry, and runs an 'ex-gay' ministry called Love Won Out. Until November 2009, Dobson hosted a national radio show.

They publish a number of media advisory services including Plugged In magazine and an accompanying website which provides a Biblical perspective on contemporary pop culture - movies, music, television and games. Focus on the Family also has affiliates across the world, in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ireland, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Taiwan.

Among their issues is what they perceive as a social "war on Christmas." Senior Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy Carrie Gordon Earl, objected to advertising that dealt with other holidays, saying "As a Christian, I don't put Christmas on the same plane as winter solstice...It kind of felt like a poke in the eye."[2]

Political role

Focus on the Family proper is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) corporation under the U.S. tax code, which does not permit the endorsement of individual candidates but does allow promotion of specific issues and perspectivesm, but has spun off Focus on the Family Action, operating under 501(c)(4), "a cultural action organization that is completely separate from Focus on the Family, legally. It has been created by separating out of Focus on the Family those activities which constitute lobbying under the IRS code so that they can be expanded in scope."[3]

Focus on the Family's political arm, during the 2008 Presidential elections, initially supported Mike Huckabee, and then later supported the Republican John McCain ticket due to the vice-presidential candidacy of the evangelical Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. "Kevin Clarkson, an Anchorage attorney who does work for the Alliance Defense Fund," loosely associated with Focus on the Family, said they called him in 2006, "asking him questions about the strength of her social conservative credentials. 'There had been some entries made under her name in Wikipedia that were of concern to them (Focus on the Family),' Clarkson said. 'The main one cited in Wikipedia was her veto of a bill that would've limited marriage benefits to married couples.' Clarkson said he had to explain the whole decision to Focus on the Family to put minds at ease....Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus Action, agreed. He said Dobson's evolution from being anti-McCain to adamantly supportive of the Republican ticket can be attributed to three things — McCain's 'strong responses' at Pastor Rick Warren's summit in Orange County, 'the pro-life, pro-family platform adopted by the party,' and the selection of Palin."[4]

Focus on the Family Action

Dobson said this group allows him to fight for the Marriage Protection Amendment (i.e., against same-sex marriage) and against "judicial tyranny". [3]


During the 2010 U.S. professional football championship, the Super Bowl, Focus on the Family will pay an estimated $2.5 to 3 million to run an advertisement, which it called, in a news release, part of a "Celebrate Life, Celebrate Family" campaign, a "meaningful message about family and life [that] comes at the right moment in the culture." The advertisement will feature prominent college football player Tim Tebow, who will tell how his mother refused medical advice to have an abortion while pregnant with him. [5]

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which asked CBS not to run the advertisement, pointed out that Tebow's mother was a missionary in the Philippines, where abortion was and is illegal.

If the Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad is based on the highly publicized Tebow story, then it raises a number of serious factual questions. Abortion has been illegal in the Philippines for over a century—no exceptions. CBS recently announced that their policy for advocacy ads has evolved, easing restrictions. Whatever the evolution, we are very concerned that the network would air an ad that recounts a story out-of-context and is paid for by an anti-choice organization. We strongly encourage CBS to pull the ad.[6]

Women's Media Center, speaking for the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation and other groups, reported that the CBS network, in 2004, rejected Super Bowl advertising from the United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC ad stated that it welcomed gay members. The center says CBS also has rejected ads in the past from and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. [5]