Focus on the Family (FOTF) was founded in 1977 as a 501(c)(3) organization. The 1000+-employee organization moved from California in 1991 to its present location in Colorado Springs.
Christianity Today ranks FOTF the number-one ministry in the U.S. by income. About one percent of its annual budget of $150 million goes for grassroots lobbying.
FOTF produces five different radio programs which are broadcast on more than 1,550 stations worldwide, including many in the former Soviet Union. The "Focus on the Family" program is the second-largest nationally syndicated radio talk show in America.
FOTF publishes the periodicals Focus on the Family, Clubhouse, Clubhouse Jr., Physician, Breakaway, Brio, Parental Guidance, and Citizen. Focus on the Family is a "family-oriented", Christian magazine that publishes a complete list of radio stations carrying FOTF broadcasts.
FOTF receives over 1,200 phone calls a day and more than 200,000 letters a month, and responds with over 52 million pieces of literature and more than a million cassettes a year. Letters are "personally" answered by Dr. James Dobson, using a computerized file of 1,000 prototype letters.
Dobson, 60, a licensed psychologist, is president and chairman of the board of directors. According to the organization's literature, "Focus on the Family is governed by an independent board of directors committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ and His principles for the success of the family unit."
The other board members are Shirley Dobson, "a homemaker and complement to her husband's ministry"; Hugo W. Schoellkopf III; Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary of State James Baker; Lee Eaton; Ted Engstrom, president of World Vision; Michael Roberts, a former dentist turned pastor; Beth Allen Blakemore, president of Clover Investments of Midland, Texas; Bobb Biehl, president of Masterplanning Group International; and Tony Wauteriek, founder of the Illinois investment banking firm of Wauteriek & Brown.
Dr. Dobson receives no salary from FOTF. His income is derived from the royalties of eleven books, including his popular Dare to Discipline. The ministry was built upon the success of this 1970 bestseller, which emphasizes the need for administering pain in child discipline. The book has sold tens of millions of copies and is still widely available.
"Millions of Americans now look to [Dobson] for spiritual and, sometimes, political guidance," according to The New York Times. "He has emerged as one of the country's most influential religious figures."
Dobson made national news in 1989 when he conducted a last-minute interview with convicted serial killer Ted Bundy. Just before his electrocution, Bundy accepted Christ and blamed pornography for his inclination to murder young women. Dobson taped his interview with Bundy and made thousands of dollars selling copies. He gave all the proceeds to other ministries, including Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association.
More recently, Dobson, a member of the Council for National Policy, has come under fire from some elements of the Christian community for his political activities. Dobson denies that FOTF is politically oriented, but he says that God "has called us to be His representatives in our nation and in our world. Select candidates who represent your views and work for their election. This is a vital part of what it means to be 'salt and light' in today's world."
Well-entrenched and extremely popular, FOTF is ahead of most Christian Right groups in the development of a loyal, if unwitting, political constituency.
FOTF attracts adherents through its radio, telephone, and mail counseling ministry. Respondents are invited to receive FOTF political materials, including Citizen magazine. Citizen tells its almost 300,000 readers how to combat gay rights, abortion, pornography, and sex education.
FOTF materials show up everywhere. Christian Right candidates for school boards frequently rely on FOTF materials. In conjunction with Concerned Women for America, FOTF designed and promotes a "no sex" sex education program for public schools.
FOTF's Community Impact Seminars teach members of local churches how to become political activists. FOTF's Community Impact Curriculum manual explores the duty of Christian political involvement, promotes a Christian America, and attacks the separation of church and state. To date, over 30,000 have attended these seminars.
The Community Impact Curriculum manual outlines the FOTF strategy: "The first thing required to win a war is soldiers." "Churches must begin with a program of 'recruitment,' or more plainly, discipleship."
"Secondly, an army needs intelligence. Where are the battles raging? Who is involved? What is the nature of the conflict and the size of the enemy? Questions like these must be answered in order to direct the efforts of your soldiers. Many organizations are devoted to providing such intelligence, either on a single social issue or a broad array of concerns. Focus on the Family has a number of resources designed to provide your church with intelligence."
FOTF played a major role in the passage of Amendment 2 in Colorado, depriving gays and lesbians of equal protection under the law (see article on page 8).
FOTF-affiliated political groups exist in some 35 states. The affiliates' names usually contain the words family, research, resource, council, or capitol. Until recently, Family Research Council (FRC), under the direction of Gary Bauer, was FOTF's Washington, DC lobbying arm.
In 1988, the Washington-based Family Research Council, headed by Gary L. Bauer, became part of FOTF. In October, 1992, Dobson announced the separation of the two groups, saying "FRC has been hampered because of stringent lobbying limits imposed on it as a part of the larger Focus on the Family ministry." He said FRC is "looking at an array of new initiatives and a new level of activism."
FRC has applied for 501(c)(3) status, and wants to appear to operate as a distinctly separate organization. However, Dobson is on FRC's board of directors.
Bauer is a former research director for the Republican National Committee, a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and former Under Secretary of Education.
To get on the FOTF mailing list, send a small contribution. Ask for Citizen magazine. Request Family Research Council's monthly Washington Watch from the FRC, 700 Thirteenth St. NW, Suite 500, Washington DC 20005, or call (202) 393-2100.
(719) 531-3400 tel
(719) 531-3331 fax