Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Strange Twist Indeed

Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times is reporting that Focus on the Family, the conservative evangelical group founded by Dr. James Dobson, is laying off 200 employees.

Malcolm reports:

    "It's the second time in recent months the influential group that does so much mailing it has its own ZIP code has released workers from its mountainside headquarters in Colorado Springs. The latest cuts leave the national organization with about 950 employees from a onetime high of some 1,500.

    The cutbacks come after Focus, formerly headquartered in California until 1991, spent a reported half-million dollars to successfully support Proposition 8 in the Golden State, overturning a state court decision to allow same-sex marriages.

    After opposing John McCain in 2007 for restrictions on nonprofit political activities in his McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and Rudy Giuliani for his abortion support, Dobson endorsed ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee late in the Republican primary season this year.

    But faced with the choice of McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, Dobson eventually said he would personally support the Arizona senator because the Illinois senator posed such a threat to family values. Since Obama's victory, Dobson has worried online about the direction of the country."

Dr. Dobson was so worried about an Obama presidency that Focus on the Family published and distributed the now infamous "Letter from 2012", a fictional vision of the world after four years of an Obama administration. A letter which the Matthew25 Network, this blogger and millions of non far-right wing, fundamentalist Christians found to be "filled with doomsday projections, is fearmongering of the worst kind - a sensationalist fiction with almost no basis in reality."*
Readers of this site's companion blog, "Get the Facts & Get Involved" may recall the post asking readers to respond to Dr. Dobson's message.

Needless to say I sent my response and, in turn, received the following reply from Focus on the Family (which in all fairness I'll reprint in its entirety):

    Response (Jonathan Bartha) 10/29/2008 02:46 PM

    Thanks for your e-mail. It was good of you to offer your candid reaction to Focus on the Family Action’s "Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America."

    We’ve heard from many people who found this resource helpful; some, like you, have disagreed with our approach. While critics of this document accuse us of engaging in "sensationalist fiction," it’s vital to underscore that we are not claiming to make definitive predictions on what a Barack Obama presidency would produce.

    However, as the "Letter from 2012" makes evident, every scenario outlined in this piece is plausible based on recent documented events, court rulings, the Democratic Party’s stated agenda, and Senator Obama’s voting record and campaign promises.

    We invite you to re-read the introduction of the letter which clearly states that we are neither employing unfounded "fear tactics" nor speaking out with mean-spirited intent. On the contrary, we’ve posted a reasonable projection of what *could* occur with a Senator Obama presidency and a Democratic-controlled Congress. Of course, we hope and pray that none of the possible outcomes described in "Letter from 2012" come to pass.

    It might be beneficial to provide some additional background on our mission to help you better understand our reasons for engaging in the public policy realm. We have no interest in partisan politics; rather, we care deeply about the sanctity of human life, the value of marriage, and the preservation of religious freedom. Dr. Dobson has espoused these crucial issues since he launched Focus on the Family in 1977 and has always encouraged people to consider them at the ballot box. Despite what the Matthew 25 Network and other pro-Obama action groups may say, we contend that Senator Obama’s record *significantly* differs from the pro-life and pro-family policies that many Christians hold dear. Some may label this "fearmongering" -- we call it a sobering, rational assessment based on actual events documented in the letter.

    It might be helpful for you to read a concise summary of four key points that motivate us in our actions:

    1) Senator Barack Obama’s record is well outside the mainstream. For example, he was rated the most liberal United States senator by the National Journal_ in 2007.

    2) A Democratic president, House and Senate has significant implications for pro-family policies. The Wall Street Journal has stated that this election will usher in "one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history" if the Democrats control the White House and possess congressional majorities, including a filibuster-proof Senate. This type of unchecked power, not seen since 1965, demands that voters critically examine the policies advocated by the Democratic Party.

    3) Senator Obama’s commitment to causes championed by extreme liberal groups such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), both of which have endorsed him, are a source of great concern. Earlier this year, Senator Obama pledged that if elected president, he would advocate for and sign the "Freedom of Choice Act," which would repeal virtually every federal and state law regulating or limiting abortion -- including parental involvement laws for teenagers, late-term abortion bans, and limits on public funding of abortion. He has also indicated that he will make it a priority to repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act," which allows states to restrict marriage to one man and one woman. In addition, he backs other HRC-supported initiatives including the passage of "hate crimes" legislation and the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act". Similar legislation has penalized Christians who hold a biblical view of sexuality.

    4) Senator Obama’s stated appreciation of United States Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter -- along with his votes against the nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito -- indicate he would appoint judges with a judicial philosophy detrimental to pro-family causes.

    On a final note, organizational endorsements of political candidates wed groups to their candidate in a way that may not lend itself to an honest critique of that individual’s weaknesses. As you’re likely aware, the group behind the Matthew 25 Web site endorsed Senator Obama for president.

    Again, thanks for writing. We hope this response has helped clarify our perspective and explained why we feel the Matthew 25 Network’s version of "choosing hope" without a sober look at the troubling elements of Senator Obama’s candidacy is misguided. Grace and peace to you.

    Jonathan Bartha

    Focus on the Family Action

Well I believe that the majority of Americans made a "sobering, rational assessment based on actual events" when they cast their votes of November 4th. Now it seem that the Focus on the Family organization has to make an equally sobering, rational assessment" and evaluate the cost of fearmongering and what it means to 200 employees and their families.

Ironically, I agree with the idea on focusing more on our families. I believe that an organization which helps families succeed helps the nation succeed. We should all focus more on helping families with adequate housing, jobs, food, clothing, health-care, education, safety and spiritual growth. But when you consider that Focus on the Family spent $500,000 on tearing some California families apart when they could have spent that money on helping their neighbors in Colorado you have to view the announcement of 200 layoffs as a strange twist indeed.

* from "Respond to Focus on the Family Action's "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America"

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