Focus' Hocus Pocus: Religious Right Group Not So Kinder And Gentler After All

A few months ago, it seemed Focus on the Family may have been coming around to – dare I say it? – a refreshingly moderate outlook.

Jim Daly recently took over president and chief executive responsibilities from James Dobson, the founder of the Religious Right outfit.

Back in June, while visiting Washington to participate in President Barack Obama's White House initiative on fatherhood, Daly praised Obama for his family values.

An interviewer asked Daly, "When Dr. Dobson stepped down as chairman in February, you said at the press conference, 'What we want to see is more families like Barack Obama's.' What did you mean by that?"

Daly responded, "I meant simply a man and woman committed to their marriage and raising their kids. That's kind of core to Focus on the Family's message. That's the irony of it. He exemplifies in his family what we're trying to do every day with all the help that we're trying to provide."

He also said Obama is "an incredibly engaging person, and he's hip."

Daly explained in the interview that as the new public face of the organization, he planned to really get into discussions about the issues, not just throw out inflammatory rhetoric.

"My style is to engage and try to influence," he said, "not simply to make remarks that maybe are not as informed. I want to find out more about the people that we're talking about. We talked about that today: Everybody who's polarized on the issues can tend to demonize people. We need to be careful with that. We do want a civil discourse. We do live in an amazing country where we hand power off in the way that we do."

You know, I could agree with that. We should try to base our opinions of others on actual facts and issues, not just call them names. Unfortunately, Daly can't seem to stick to his own plans.

Last night, Daly appeared on the Fox News Channel's "Hannity" show, hosted by Sean Hannity, who's not exactly known for encouraging reasoned dialogue. There was no discussion of issues or trying to "find out more about the people we're talking about." Instead, there was a lot of the "demonizing" that Daly had earlier told us to "be careful" about.

When Hannity, called Obama "a radical" who has "never pulled back from his ideology" and an "extremist," Daly said he had to agree.

But the name-calling was not based on Obama's decisions on particular issues; rather, it was a rehash of shopworn right-wing attacks tying Obama to Bill Ayers and other potentially controversial figures.

This doesn't sound like an "informed" opinion to me. Sure, we at AU sometimes criticize the president, but it's based on his actions (or lack of actions) on particular issues. At Focus on the Family, there just seems to be a void of facts.

One could argue that facts are an impediment to Focus on the Family. Yesterday, the organization sent a letter to Congress opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The group argued that the legislation would harm religious freedom in the workplace.

"Gay rights activists have wanted this bill for a long time," said Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, "to keep religious employers from being able to hire and fire based on their moral conviction."

Here is the truth about the bill: While it does protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, it also includes broad protections for religious freedom, something Focus on the Family fails to acknowledge.

Focus might want to reconsider its strategy, however. There are signs that it's wearing thin even with the target audience. The Denver Post reported today that the ministry is terminating 75 staff members to offset a $6 million revenue shortfall.

Maybe it is time to start basing those opinions on some substantial facts.

P.S. "The Wall of Separation" will be on hiatus on Labor Day. Enjoy the long weekend!