Dobson Announces Plans To Get More Involved In Partisan Politics

Radio counselor and Religious Right activist James C. Dobson is increasingly dropping his fa\xe7ade of non-partisanship.

Dobson announced in October that he is considering taking a leave of absence from Focus on the Family, the large, Colorado-based evangelical ministry that he runs, to jump headfirst into campaigning on behalf of favored candidates.

Fears that same-sex marriage may soon become legal in the United States apparently motivated Dobson's latest move. During a Washington press conference, Dobson outlined his new direction.

"For 26 years, I have been the head of a non-profit organization, Focus on the Family, which is, of course, limited in its ability to speak to political issues," he said in a statement. "That, for me, is changing. I have resigned as president of Focus on the Family. I am chairman of the board, but I'm prepared to take a leave of absence and be involved in those races where there is an obvious lack of understanding of the importance of the [gay marriage] issue, wherever that takes me."

Dobson added that the gay marriage issue "may have to be fought out on the political level, and if so, let's go for it."

Dobson has endorsed candidates for public office before as an individual, but he apparently is considering ratcheting up his political activity. His first effort, however, was a dud. Dobson endorsed California Sen. Tom McClintock in that state's Oct. 7 recall election, but the right-wing Republican was soundly dedfeated, coming in third place.

The winner was actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ran openly as a pro-choice candidate who also favors some gay rights and forms of gun control positions normally anathema to the Religious Right.

A bevy of other Religious Right heavy hitters backed McClintock, among them Phyllis Schlafly, Randall Terry and Alan Keyes. McClintock also accepted funding from Howard Ahmanson Jr., a California millionaire who is influential in the Golden State's Religious Right.

Terry asserted that Schwarzenegger is little more than a Republican version of former President Bill Clinton. Clinton was a frequent target for Religious Right attacks during his eight years in office.

Terry said many in the Religious Right were supporting Schwarzenegger even though they "know he believes in killing babies; that he will trash the Second Amendment; he supports 'homosexual marriage' under the euphemism of 'domestic partnerships.' In many ways, he is a Bill Clinton with an (R) after his name instead of a (D). And yet they support him, because they are not people of conviction."

California-based Religious Right minister Louis P. Sheldon also blasted Schwarzenegger. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Sheldon, who heads the Traditional Values Coalition, ran television ads that showed the actor's face morphing into that of unpopular Gov. Gray Davis.

"The ultimate message is there's no difference between Arnold Schwarzednegger and Gray Davis, so what's the purpose of the recall?" Sheldon said.

Nevertheless, the far right's backing of McClintock's candidacy failed to attract many voters in the general public, and he captured only 13 percent of the vote. Exit polling data showed that most social conservatives voted for Schwarzenegger.

In other news about the Religious Right:

 The evangelical men's group Promise Keepers has a new leader. Thomas S. Forston Jr., who has served as executive vice president since 1996, was elevated to president and CEO Oct. 1.

Forston replaces Bill McCartney, a former college football coach who founded the organization in 1991. The group drew huge crowds to its football stadium rallies in the mid 1990s, but the numbers have since leveled off.