The 12 Worst (and Most Powerful) Christian Right Groups
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Focus on the Family
Location: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Focus on the Family was founded by child psychologist James Dobson to advocate for “biblical” solutions to family problems. Although it poses as a family-oriented ministry, the group has always been political. Vociferously opposed to church-state separation and secular government, the massive fundamentalist ministry has a worldwide presence.
Dobson, who has since retired from the group, remains an influential radio broadcaster and has authored several books. He still appears on the air daily with his son, Ryan. Dobson frequently attacks church-state separation and once said “The separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.”
FOF’s current president is Jim Daly. Although Daly said he wanted to tone down some of the ministry’s harsh attacks on gays and others, much far-right political content remains. FOF has a network of 35 state “family policy councils” that lobby in the state capitals.
Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Location: Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.
The lobbying arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, takes stands virtually identical to the Religious Right. Southern Baptists claim 16 million members. The SBC’s government action office presses for school-sponsored religion, tax aid to religious schools, reductions in gay rights, limits on legal abortion and other far-right social issues. Commission President Richard Land has stated, “When we convince a majority of Americans that we are right, that’s not called a theocracy, that’s called the democratic process.”
Although many Baptists have historically supported church-state separation, the SBC in the early 1980s became the target of a takeover by Religious Right-style fundamentalists. Once in power, this bloc began endorsing various proposals to merge church and state (such as a school prayer amendment to the Constitution). Land works hand in glove with Religious Right organizations to promote a theocratic agenda. Despite the denomination’s tax-exempt status, he openly meddles in Republican Party politics.
Traditional Values Coalition
Location: Anaheim, Calif.
Founded originally to work on “culture war” issues in California, the Traditional Values Coalition eventually expanded to become a national organization. Known for its gay bashing and attacks on Islam, TVC claims to work with 43,000 churches nationwide. The group was founded by the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, who once said, “A dangerous Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition has formed – and we’d better be willing to fight it with everything in our power.”
In 2000, Sheldon accepted money from gambling interests connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Sheldon, whom one lobbyist referred to as “Lucky Louie,” told Religious Right activists he was blocking the spread of legalized gambling, although the lobbying firm he was working for was actually trying to spread internet-based gambling.
Sheldon’s daughter, Andrea Lafferty, serves as TVC executive director. She is as partisan and as shrill as her father. When Democratic Party officials announced that U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) would become party chair, Lafferty pounced.
“Way to go DNC,” Lafferty snarled in a press release. “You found the candidate who best fit your profile for DNC Chairman: a junkyard dog who is mean, nasty, shrill, able to screech at a moment’s notice, aggressive, and of course able to manipulate the facts and always uncompromising.”
Coral Ridge Ministries
Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Coral Ridge Ministries was founded by D. James Kennedy, a TV preacher who died in 2007. Stridently fundamentalist and far-right on the political spectrum, Kennedy insisted that separation of church and state is not in the Constitution and was known for his attacks on evolution.