There are so many things I could tell people about Focus on the Family. Nominally, it’s an organization that helps parents raise their children as good Christians. The person that founded it has a Ph.D from USC. Most of the organization’s body of work centers on promoting Christian family values. Those values aren’t healthy – something I’d like to get into at another time. Right now, I just want to discuss how FotF teaches people (including me, once upon a time) to hate.
FotF really doesn’t like gay people.
The organization has published a bunch of misleading and defamatory stuff concerning gay people. Much of it could be found on the organization’s radio broadcast. For many years, I got to listen to its founder tell me all sorts of untrue things about people I didn’t know anything about.
This isn’t an accident. FotF has existed in part because of its ability to generate fear of gay people. Much of the homophobic dog-whistling I grew up with started in FotF’s children’s ministry. The organization understands that Christian children are a captive audience and leverages that to its advantage.
Most people who have given money to FotF probably don’t consider the consequences of it, either. On its face, the organization seems to care about raising healthy kids. It claims to follow the same faith as the parents who seek its advice and counsel.
Except that FotF spawned a modern network of homophobic hate.
Not many people are familiar with the Family Research Council. It’s a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Originally, the FRC was a division of FotF. The organizations split when FotF’s tax exempt status came into question.
That split is probably one reason why people don’t openly think of FotF as a hate group. For years, the FRC has done the most unsavory part of defaming gay people. The FRC lobbies against gay rights, publishes junk science, and promotes Christian political fantasies. All the dirty stuff gets laid at the FRC’s feet. FotF just gets to quietly benefit from it.
What I don’t understand is why FotF hasn’t been considered a hate group in its own right. Perhaps it’s because it hides its rhetoric behind religious speech. Maybe the SPLC doesn’t want to take the extra step of recognizing that fundagelical Christianity has always had a severe mistrust of gay people. Even in its most positive light, gay people are seen as people suffering from an affliction that only Jesus can forgive. There’s still that implication that gay people are less than, not equal to, not the same as everyone else.
To me, Focus on the Family will always be a homophobic organization.
If I’m being fair, I have to recognize that I cannot forgive the organization for what it has done to me. Even if it hadn’t promoted emotional and borderline physical abuse, I don’t think it should get a pass for what it has done in teaching generations of people to hate gay people. FotF’s lies hurt people in the LGBT community in ways too numerous to tell. In many ways, I got off light compared to what gay kids had and have to go through.
It pains me to think of the generations of LGBT kids who had to grow up being told they’re wrong just for being who they are. Who knows all of the individual horrors they had to endure? So many couldn’t withstand the suffering. Some never got to find their voice.
And the voice raised against them still goes on.