Believing that conservative Christians have been betrayed by the Republican Party, Focus on the Family President James Dobson said February 7 that he will personally lead a national campaign to weed out GOP elected leaders who have failed to keep promises to uphold strict Bible-based principles as part of their lawmaking activities.
Dobson, addressing about 300 members of the secretive Council for National Policy meeting at the Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix, said he will be traveling the country starting this month with that message. His call, which he likened to the voter revolt that overthrew the Whig Party in the 1800s, is next set to be delivered to the Southern Baptist Convention, which meets June 9-11 in Salt Lake City.
Dobson made it clear that he was speaking as an individual, rather than as president of his Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Focus on the Family, in order to preserve the integrity of that organization's 501(c)(3) status. But Dobson also said that he would use his internationally broadcast radio program, to the extent that federal regulations governing nonprofits allow, to spread the word that Republicans have betrayed the powerful bloc of voting conservative Christians sometimes referred to as the religious right.
His remarks were delivered behind closed doors at a meeting that had not been publicly announced and that was under tight security controls. In spite of those controls, which included specially designed security badges for delegates, a Freedom Writer reporter was able to slip into the meeting unnoticed and listen to Dobson's speech.
The Council for National Policy includes some of the nation's most influential, and sometimes radical, conservative Christian leaders, as well as business and political figures. The meeting also included addresses by former US Attorney General Edwin Meese, former US Vice President Dan Quayle, Steve Forbes, Phyllis Schlafly and Christian Coalition President Donald Hodel.
Several CNP members likened Dobson, who had broken from the CNP in 1995 over a spat with fellow members, to the New Testament's Prodigal Son who had returned home. But Dobson, who preferred to compare himself to John the Baptist at Saturday's event, received mixed reaction to his comments that political war should be waged on GOP leaders. About two-thirds of those attending gave Dobson a two-minute standing ovation, but the other one-third sat silently without applauding. A sizable number of the latter group appeared to be state and national Republican Party organizers and leaders who had aligned themselves with the CNP.
Three days after the Freedom Writer posted this account on its Internet site, The New York Times picked up the story, mentioning the Freedom Writer's coverage of the event. Laurie Goodstein, the Times' reporter, followed up her story with an article on March 23, 1998.
Goodstein revealed another secret meeting of the leaders of the political and religious right, hosted by Paul Weyrich. She summarized that meeting: "Some Christian conservatives like James Dobson, whose Focus on the Family radio show draws 5 million listeners, have threatened to bolt the Republican Party. But his colleagues acknowledge that abandoning the party is unlikely, and that much of the recent saber-rattling is intended to test the party's mettle. If the meeting in Mr. Weyrich's office is any indication, the movement's leaders are more likely to try to consolidate their forces and push the Republican Party to issues like abortion, sexual morality and family values in the forefront of every campaign and legislative session.