Jim Daly is President/CEO of the evangelical, socially conservative public policy nonprofit Focus on the Family (FOF), which was founded by one of America’s most influential and hard-line Right Wing Christian conservatives, James Dobson. In 2004 Dobson was described as “America’s most influential evangelical leader.” FOF was one of the largest and most prolific religious right organizations in the United States until its downsizing in 2008. They donated $35,310 to reelect Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and spent about $500,000 to support Proposition 8 in California. According to their 2010 990 IRS form, they spent about $25 million on communications. Their annual operating budget has slipped from $146 million in 2007 to $130 million in 2010, an 11% cut.
Daly perceives same-sex marriage as a watershed issue for religious liberty. As he sees it, religious liberty, i.e. the ability of a public official to refuse to marry a gay couple because of religious belief, will be illegal if gay marriage is legalized. From this logic follows the popular accusation among conservative Christian pundits that government is meddling in peoples’ lives.
FOF is one of many family organizations that view political and social issues through a right wing, orthodox Christian lens. As such they oppose abortion and sex education, advocate for prayer in schools and the treatment of homosexuality with “reparative” therapy. Focus on the Family has said anti-bullying efforts in schools and legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act are part of a LGBT plot to introduce homosexuality to impressionable children.
FOF publishes biased studies to support their agenda. And like many of these studies, when sources are checked, the analysis is found inaccurate and skewed. In a Senate Judiciary hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) revealed Thomas Minnery’s misrepresentation of a Department of a Health and Human Services study. Minnery is senior vice president of Government and Public Policy for Focus on the Family.
FOF has affiliate organizations in 32 states, connecting it with a large grassroots political constituency through these Family Policy Councils. It should be noted that some members of Focus on the Family may be unaware of Daly’s or the organization’s right wing agenda. Some of the services and products FOF offers are not on the surface political, but they do reflect conservative ideas about child-rearing and family relationships. Daly’s leadership of FOF seems to be returning it to its original goal, the nurturance of the Christian family. In that sense it continues to advocate for the sanctity of marriage, traditional gender roles, and heterosexism, and it continues to lay the infrastructure for Christian Right organizing.
This profile is part of a series on key anti-LGBTQ opponents adapted from Political Research Associates’ Resisting the Rainbow report.