Anti-LGBTQ hate group reorganizes as a “church” to avoid government oversight
Is it truly a part of the First Amendment’s “free exercise of religion” clause to exempt political lobbying groups from paying their fair share of taxes?
The Family Research Council, the far-right policy “think” tank and political lobbying group, was granted non-profit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a church with its head, Tony Perkins, as minister.
FRC has lobbied for legislation banning gender-affirming surgery, filed amicus briefs supporting repealing Roe v. Wade, and has worked tirelessly for religious exemptions to civil rights laws.
FRC explains itself and its philosophical underpinnings on its website:
“A nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life. In addition to providing policy research and analysis for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government, FRC seeks to inform the news media, the academic community, business leaders, and the general public about family issues that affect the nation from a biblical worldview.”
Focus on the Family
The group, Focus on the Family, was founded by its first director, evangelical Christian, James Dobson, as a radio program in 1977 in Arcadia, California. Focus on the Family comprises a conservative theocratic mega-media Christian ministry. On its official website, FOF promotes itself as:
“To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide.”
FOF declares that “[u]ltimately, we believe that the purpose of life is to know and glorify God through an authentic relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. This purpose is lived out first within our own families then extended, in love, to an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him.”
FOF, charted as a not-for-profit agency, functions as the largest theocratic-right organization in the United States operating out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. It supported the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (the federal law defining legal marriage as only a union between one man and one woman).
It rejects reproduction freedoms for women, opposes sexuality education in schools except “abstinence-only,” works to ban curricular materials it deems inappropriate including notions of multiculturalism and specifically anything it has determined promotes the so-called “homosexual agenda.”
According to Dobson: “Tolerance and its first cousin, diversity, are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy.”
Dobson-backed elective candidates, Randall Terry and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), have called for the execution of abortion providers. He has referred to embryonic stem-cell research as “state-funded cannibalism,” encourages parents to abandon the public school system, and supports a constitutional amendment that would permit forced organized prayer in public schools.
In addition, he founded a group called “Love Won Out” (later called “True Story) in 1998 dedicated to converting homosexuals to heterosexuality.
Dobson led FOF until 2003, before leaving when he established Family Talk in 2010 and initiated his radio broadcast, “Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson.” In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire, Dobson likens proponents of marriage for same-sex couples to Nazis:
“Like Adolf Hitler, who overran his European neighbors, those who favor homosexual marriage are determined to make it legal, regardless of the democratic processes that stand in their way.”
Further, he claimed that the “homosexual activist movement [is] working to implement a master plan that has as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family.”
According to Dobson, the goals of this homosexual movement include “universal acceptance of the gay lifestyle, the discrediting of Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, muzzling of the clergy and Christian media, granting special privileges and rights in the law, overturning laws prohibiting pedophilia, indoctrination of children and future generations through public education, and securing all the legal benefits of marriage for any two or more people who claim to have homosexual tendencies.”
We see echoes of Dobson’s arguments in states around the country that currently are passing laws, modeled on Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” (commonly referred to as “Don’t Say Gay”) law banning discussions of sexual and gender identities in early elementary school classrooms.
The Family Research Center
In addition to FOF, Dobson also created the Family Research Council (FRC) in 1981, which has developed into a major influential theocratic organization campaigning for so-called “traditional family values” as FRC sees it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed the Family Research Council, which now has tax-exempt status, as an extremist “hate group.”
“The Family Research Council (FRC) bills itself as ‘the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,’ states the Southern Poverty Law Center, “but its real specialty is defaming LGBTQ people.”
In the face of Internal Revenue Service investigations of FRC’s overt lobbying activities, FRC administratively separated from Focus on the Family in 1992 to become an independent organization. Gary Bauer took over the helm as the first president until 2003 when Tony Perkins succeeded him.
FRC takes virtually identical theocratic Right positions to its “parent” organization, FOF. Peter Sprigg, FRC’s Senior Researcher for Policy Studies asserted that same-sex sexuality should be legislated and declared illegal, and that “criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior” should be enforced. More recently, Sprigg argued that repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy would encourage molestation of heterosexual service members.
Perkins himself has argued that “homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men,” that “homosexual misconduct” in the military will increase without the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court:
“We do not need a justice on the Supreme Court who sees it as her life mission to write the homosexual version of Roe v. Wade by striking down one-man, one-woman marriage across America.”
The Christian Right
We must locate both FOF and its off-shoot FRC in a wider context, for they most certainly do not operate in isolation, but are, in fact, part of a much larger and wider conservative theological, political, and social movement founded and maintained on their interpretation of conservative Christian biblical pronouncements and principles.
This informal coalition of conservative Christian groups, often known collectively as the “Christian Right,” primarily evangelical Protestant and Catholic, include The Heritage Foundation (a conservative political “think” tank founded in 1973), Concerned Women for America, American Coalition on Traditional Values, Coalition for Religious Freedom, Eagle Forum, Moral Majority, American Center for Law and Justice, Christian Coalition, Christian Voice, National Organization for Marriage, and many others too numerous to list.
Though the term “Christian Right” has been used to represent this movement, this terminology is inaccurate and misleading. A sizable number of well-intentioned conservative Christians do not abide by many of the extreme stances taken by movement leaders – leaders who seem to have hijacked Jesus’s message.
While several leaders and organizations within this far-right political movement bristle against the notion of a large, centralized government, paradoxically, they seem to be working toward the imposition of a powerful theocracy in their image.
Since Christianity cannot be viewed as monolithic because numerous denominations make disparate interpretations of scripture, the term “Theocratic Right” is more accurate to represent this right-wing religiously based political movement.
The Theocratic Right movement operates with a vast media network of electronic and print outlets, including The Christian Broadcasting Network, Fox News, and a complex radio network with leading commentators formerly including the late Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlessinger. Several universities are also associated with the Theocratic Right, namely Bob Jones University, Oral Roberts University, Liberty University, Regent University, Patrick Henry College, and Baylor University.
Many of these Theocratic Right groups and religious ministries push what they refer to as Christian therapy for, as they phrase it, to remove people from the “deviant homosexual lifestyle.”
These therapies go by such names as the X-Gay religious ministries, Exodus International, Homosexual Anonymous (a cynical cooption of 12-Step programs methods of recovery), PFOX (Parents, Families, and Friends of Ex-Gays and Lesbians (an obvious rip-off of the LGBT allies support network PFLAG—Parents, Families, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians), and the so-called reparative or conversion therapies, which promise conversion to heterosexuality if the patient has the required motivation to change.
As a brief aside, the Theocratic Right paints LGBTQ people as having so-called “lifestyles” while at least implying, on the other hand, that heterosexual people live lives. “Homosexual lifestyles” are political and theocratic buzzwords to conjure up forbidden and depraved sexual and gender-based predatory behaviors.
But critical questions need to be asked and addressed:
Why does the IRS grant tax-exempt status to religiously based organizations and institutions that engage in the political lobbying process? And where is the line – if any line exists – between serving the religious needs of their congregations and exerting pressure in the political and legislative process? Is it truly a part of the First Amendment’s “free exercise of religion” clause to exempt religious groups and institutions from paying their fair share of taxes?
In the case of so many of these institutions, including the Family Research Council, it clearly is not fair to those of us who are harmed by their actions and policy initiatives.