April 2009 Church & State | People & Events

James C. Dobson announced last month that he will no longer serve as chairman of Focus on the Family (FOF), but the change isn’t likely to amount to much, says Americans United.

Although Dobson is giving up the administrative position, the prominent Religious Right leader will continue doing his daily radio broadcasts, which reach millions. He will also continue sending monthly letters giving his perspective on “culture war” issues and won’t stop handing out political endorsements, which he issues in his capacity as a private citizen.  

Americans United said most observers won’t notice any changes at FOF. The organization’s top leaders are in sync with Dobson on politics and theology and are likely to continue promoting the same ideas.  

Based in Colorado Springs, Focus on the Family has an annual budget of $140 million and a worldwide reach. Its Washington, D.C., off-shoot, the Family Research Council, has become the nation’s leading Religious Right lobby.  

Dobson, 72, founded FOF in 1977. The organization experienced rapid growth with its mix of parenting advice and right-wing politics. Dobson, who is a child psychologist and not a minister, made a name for himself by advocating corporal punishment at a time when many child-rearing experts were moving away from it. He outlined these views in his best-selling book Dare to Discipline.  

In a press statement, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said he does not expect to see significant changes at the group.

“James Dobson’s decision to resign as chairman of Focus on the Family is unlikely to make much of a difference in the day-to-day operations of that organization,” Lynn said. “Dobson intends to continue his daily radio program and monthly mailings. He has also said he will keep handing out political endorsements. Many who listen to Dobson’s daily radio broadcast may not even be aware of this change.”

Lynn added, “Focus on the Family is merely rearranging the deck chairs on its big, intolerant ship.”

In other news about the Religious Right:

• The Board of Trustees at Liberty University has turned down a request from a student group to allow concealed weapons on campus.

A university student group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus asked that the school change its policies and allow students with concealed-handgun permits to bring weapons on campus. Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said he took the matter to the Board, which decided against it, reported the Lynchburg News & Advance.  

“Some of the faculty had commented that they couldn’t imagine anything worse than students packing heat while they were handing out grades,” Falwell told the newspaper.

Liberty was founded by the late TV preacher Jerry Falwell, who espoused rigidly conservative political views.