Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mapping the Religious Right: Family Research Council

The Religious Right is a powerful force in American politics and society, tipping elections and making themselves one of the most influential voting blocs in the country. Their objectives are worn on their sleeves; their zeal unquestionable. Yet for everything that is known far more remains just out of common knowledge. In this series we will delve into this unknown tracking down more on their most powerful players, money, influence, and how they achieve their goals.

On Tuesday November 23rd the Southern Poverty Law Center added the Family Research Council to their list of hate groups. This recent bad press along with the FRC's response claiming the label is nothing more than a smear campaign has brought this influential fundamentalist group back into the public eye. Controversy is nothing new to the Family Research Council having been on the front lines of the Culture War since its inception. Far from being a fringe organization the Family Research Council is a multi-million dollar powerhouse spearheading the political efforts of the Religious Right.

The Family Research Council was founded in 1980 by James Dobson to “drive the national debate on family issues”. It was incorporated in 1983 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to serve as advocates for the Christian Fundamentalist cause. In 1992 under the leadership of Gary Bauer created FRC Action, a 501(c)4 political action group as their lobbying arm. They declare their mission as the defense of marriage and family believing that “God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.” This is re-affirmed by FRC Action's support for “A renewal of ethical monotheism and traditional Judeo-Christian standards of morality-the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God"-to which the founding fathers appealed in the Declaration of Independence.”

The FRC is an organization with considerable reach and power. With a donor base for their political arm cutting across economic and geographic lines the FRC has a large, mobilized, and well-coordinated body of supporters. They regularly post updates of action items on their site calling for action by good Christians often to great effect. In 2005 they flexed this muscle by helping organize Justice Sunday to rally support to end the filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. They declared the filibuster was an insult to people of faith and cried persecution, claiming the Democratic filibuster was covering for activist judges who were “working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms.” Alito received strong support from the FRC following his nomination airing ads in support and mobilizing supporters to contact their senators. In 2006 they organized the first Values Voters Summit to bring together social conservatives in Washington DC. Now in its fourth year the summit boasts an impressive list of sponsors including Liberty University and the American Family Association. Gary Bauer, Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schafly, and Sean Hannity have all addressed the Summit as a keynote guest speaker. The FRC has stayed on the front lines of the Culture War organizing or participating in campaigns nationwide and acting abroad. In 2008 the FRC through FRC Action was an active part of the election campaign spending large sums of money to defeat Barack Obama and in support of several socially conservative candidates. In June of 2010 they joined several other organizations in opposition to a Congressional resolution condemning an Ugandan anti-gay law. The law included provisions calling for the death penalty to “recidivists” and prison time for any who sheltered people suspected of “homosexual tendencies”. Their most recent victory was the 2010 unseating three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn the state's gay marriage ban.

The FRC shows no signs of slowing down any time soon with substantial revenue and assets on-hand. Their propaganda campaigns are broadcast nationwide with multiple local groups doing the boots on the ground work. Boasting connections with the most influential members of the movement and favors owed by powerful politicians the FRC is no minor fringe group but a potent force to be reckoned with in the vanguard of the Religious Right.

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