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Is Anti-Gay Group "Focus on the Family" Dying as Donations Drop? A Look Back at 7 of Their Strangest and Most Appalling Moves

As donations fall and jobs are cut, are Focus on the Family's days of using gay rights as a wedge issue finished?

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The Christian Right is far from dead, but it's good to see one of its biggest wedge issues losing its power to wedge.

Here's a reminder of just some of the extremist positions Focus of the Family has advocated since its founding as one of the biggest, widest-reaching intolerance-boosting organizations in the country. It's important to reiterate that even with a reduced budget, it is a multi-million-dollar media operation with a large political wing--and it's been at the forefront in opposing most progressive social change and promoting backward-thinking social programs. The group has been able to funnel time and money--often successfully--into advocating conservative positions like the ones below.

1. Opposing anti-bullying campaigns due to the "homosexual agenda." Most people agree that bullying and isolating gay teens is a bad thing. Unless, of course, you're Focus on the Family. Recently, Focus on the Family made waves by expressing concern that anti-bullying efforts on behalf of LGBT students were too, err, pro-gay? The ridiculous claim is that activists are using campaigns and awareness efforts around bullying to indoctrinate the youth of America with the "homosexual agenda."  As Alvin McEwen wrote at the time for AlterNet, "This stance against anti-bullying efforts seems to be part of a larger campaign by Focus on the Family to push the inaccurate notion that homosexuals are indoctrinating children in America’s schools."

They have also started a "day of dialogue" as a direct retort to the LGBT-oriented "day of silence," which honors victims of anti-gay discrimination and crimes.

2. Hyping dangerous, discredited "ex-gay therapy:" In 2007, Pam Spaulding reported on the way CitizenLink inaccurately covered a dangerous, dispiriting ex-gay conference, fudging attendance numbers to make it seem like the conference was more successful--and its rival conference more sparsely attended--than it actually was. Focus on the Family's leaders have touted the "homosexuality is a choice" canard for a long time, and they have an "ex-gay" ministry that has been decried by reputable science and health organizations.

3. Declaring that gay marriage will ruin everything--and putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into opposing it: "Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth," FOTF Founder and former president Dobson has been quoted as saying. Dobson was a particularly loud opponent of both gay marriage and civil unions, and his group has been a donor to marriage bans like Proposition 8 (to which they contributed about $500,000) and others. 

4. Undermining science by promoting intelligent design and crisis pregnancy centers: Focus on the Family has been one of the leading proponents of the anti-science Intelligent design curriculum which is a way of sneaking God into the science classroom and undermining evolution. They've also spent time and money promoting crisis pregnancy centers, which often masquerade as medical centers to dissuade women from having abortions. Their efforts have been instrumental in bringing both of these insidious fads to the forefront. They've also pumped time, money and energy into abstinence education and prayer in schools.

5. Praying for rain to wash away an Obama speech: Okay, this is a fairly small and specific one, but significant in illustrating FOTF's worldview. In an attempt to make an "edgy" video for their followers, this is what FOTF ran, as Steve Benen wrote:

Focus unveiled a new video, asking politically-conservative Christians to pray for rain on Aug. 28, in order to disrupt Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention...Shepard called for "abundant rain, torrential rain ... flood-advisory rain." ...

Explaining why he wants everyone to pray for rain, Shepard explains, without a hint of humor, "I'm still pro-life, and I'm still in favor or marriage being between one man and one woman. And I would like the next president who will select justices for the next Supreme Court to agree."

In other words, Obama disagrees with the religious right on culture-war issues, so Focus on the Family wants God to smite Obama with rain. 

6. Claiming that corporal punishment is "purifying" and advocating "obedience" in children: Dobson has had no qualms wading into debates on whether a light spanking is appropriate for child-rearing, and his fervor on the issue is notable. Dobson's justification for corporal punishment is more than a little creepy. Wikiquote has him saying the following two things in his infamous book Dare to Discipline: First, he wrote that "By learning to yield to the loving authority... of his parents, a child learns to submit to other forms of authority which will confront him later in his life — his teachers, school principal, police, neighbors and employers." This is a horrifying nugget that reveals how mindlessly pro-authority his worldview is. He also has said that "[P]ain is a marvelous purifier. . . It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." Just in case it wasn't clear.