The American Family Association (AFA) was formed in 1977 under the name National Federation for Decency. The goal of its founder, the Rev. Donald Wildmon, was ambitious: clean up smut on television. Wildmon vowed to use boycotts to bring advertisers to their knees.
The original plan did not work out as well as Wildmon had hoped. Years went by, and risqué TV programs continued to proliferate. The rise of cable brought movies and shows featuring sexual themes right into American living rooms. Wildmon shifted gears, changing the name of the organization and adopting a host of Religious Right boilerplate issues, such as promoting religion in public schools, pushing the display of religious signs and symbols in government buildings and opposing gay rights.
Wildmon still promotes boycotts, but their effectiveness is disputed. A long-running Wildmon-sponsored boycott of the Disney Corporation didn’t affect the company’s bottom line. Wildmon claimed success for a boycott of Ford Motors, but auto analysts said the company’s drop in sales was due to other factors.
Most recently, Wildmon has called for a boycott of Hallmark, the greeting card company, which has been marketing a line of cards for same-sex marriages, and of fast-food giant McDonald’s, which Wildmon scored for joining the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Wildmon was instrumental in forming the Arlington Group, a coalition of Religious Right organizations that meet regularly in a Washington, D.C., suburb to plot strategy. (Unlike the Coalition for National Policy – see below – the Arlington Group does not contain secular conservative organizations and sticks to “culture war” issues.)
Wildmon, a United Methodist minister, does daily radio broadcasts over American Family Radio to more than 200 stations and distributes a daily round-up of right-wing news called OneNewsNow. He has also flirted with anti-Semitism, suggesting that Jews control the entertainment industry. The AFA’s journal has also reprinted articles from The Spotlight, an anti-Semitic newspaper. In 2006, Wildmon said evangelicals may stop supporting Israel if Jewish leaders don’t stop criticizing the Religious Right.
Now in poor health, Wildmon has been turning operation of the group over to his son Tim.
Wildmon Quote: “Anti-prayer/Anti-Christian groups – like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State – have teamed up with liberal judges on the U.S. Supreme Court and are stripping away our religious freedom.” (Fund-raising letter, Fall 2000)