Focus on the Family (FOTF, or FotF) is an American evangelical group. The non-profit organization was founded in 1977 by James Dobson, and is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Focus on the Family is one of a number of evangelical parachurch organizations that rose to prominence in the 1980s. A component of the American Christian right, it is active in promoting interdenominational work toward its views on social conservative public policy. The organization describes itself as "dedicated to nurturing and defending families worldwide" and protecting family values. Some of the core promotional activities of the organization include a daily radio broadcast by Dobson and his colleagues, providing free resources and family counseling according to Focus on the Family views, and publishing a variety of magazines, videos, and audio recordings. The organization also produces specialized programs for targeted audiences, such as Adventures in Odyssey for children, dramas, and Family Minute with James Dobson. Focus on the Family reaches 220 million listeners daily, on over 7,000 stations in 160 countries.
From an ethics standpoint, mainstream medical, psychological, and mental health organizations have criticized Focus on the Family. Additionally, top academics have charged Focus on the Family with manipulating research in misleading ways.
Focus on The Family Radio Theatre is a series of audio dramas adapting classic literature, mystery mini-series and biographical productions, extending its reach to the mainstream as well as the Christian audience. The endeavor began through the efforts of former Adventures in Odyssey producers Dave Arnold and Paul McCusker, along with casting director Philip Glassborow based in England.
Radio Theater began with historical biographies of Squanto ("The Legend of Squanto"), Jesus ("The Luke Reports") and Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom"), and in 1996, a 90-minute radio drama based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was produced and aired as a broadcast special.
In 2003, Focus on the Family Radio Theater released an audio dramatization of C. S. Lewis' epic novel series The Chronicles of Narnia, with David Suchet providing the voice of Aslan, and over 100 English actors rounding out the cast. Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, serves as host--sharing his personal stories at the beginning of each audio drama.
Radio Theatre also also released an original miniseries, the Father Gilbert Mysteries, which tells of the strange spiritual mysteries encountered by Louis Gilbert, a cop-turned-Anglican-priest, who lives in Stonebridge, an English village in the shire of Sussex (ignoring the fact that Sussex is not and never was a shire), and ministers to the people of the town from St. Mark's Church. Nine episodes have been produced in four volumes available on cassette and CD.
FOTF also produces a children's radio drama entitled Adventures in Odyssey. It began in 1987 as Family Portraits, starring an elderly Christian gentleman named John Avery Whittaker (aka "Whit"), who runs an ice cream shop/"discovery emporium" called Whit's End; and he imparts Christian wisdom to the children of the town of Odyssey. It was renamed "Odyssey USA" in November 1987 and took on its present name, "Adventures in Odyssey" in April 1988.
Focus on the Family's Love Won Out ministry's mission is to exhort and equip the church to respond in what they claim is a Christ-like way to the "condition" of (non-biological) homosexuality from, "a biblical point of view." They work with Exodus International and NARTH to work with people who believe they have an ego-dystonic homosexual orientation to be healed and those who have participated in homosexual behavior to achieve forgiveness for what they consider a sin. It teaches that "The foundation of society for the family is marriage of a man and a woman for life" and that "Scripture is very clear in its condemnation of homosexual conduct, for such sin is a deviation from God's creation and design.. However, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association among other groups claim that conversion therapy for gays and lesbians is not only ineffective but can be dangerous to the mental health of patients. Focus on the Family has been criticized by the APA, LGBT rights activists, PFLAG and others for their attempt to "cure homosexuality".
As a 501(c)(3) corporation, Focus on the Family is not permitted to advocate any individual political candidate. However, in its radio broadcast, it often discusses political issues and current events, usually through a Christian conservative point of view. Dobson is among the Christian conservative leaders who have met with and advised President George W. Bush. Focus on the Family's magazine Citizen is exclusively devoted to politics. The FOTF also has an affiliated group, Focus on the Family Action (a.k.a. Focus Action), though the two groups are legally separate. As a 501(c)(4) social welfare group, Focus Action has fewer political lobbying restrictions. FoTF's revenue in 2005 was USD $142M, and that of FoTF Action was $14.7M.
The group supports the teaching of "traditional family values". It advocates school sponsored prayer and supports corporal punishment. It strongly opposes abortion, so-called militant feminism, homosexuality, pornography, and pre-marital and extramarital sexual activity. Focus on the Family also embraces and reflects the wider political agenda of its audience, for instance promoting a religiously-centered conception of American identity and the support of Israel.
The group's message has been highly controversial, and it has received a large amount of criticism. In particular, groups who support homosexual rights have criticized the organization for its stance on homosexuality and related legislation, as well as the Love Won Out ministry, an ex-gay movement in cooperation with Exodus International and NARTH.
Focus on the Family maintains a strong pro-life stand against abortion, and provides grant funding and medical training to assist crisis pregnancy centers (also known as pregnancy resource centers) in obtaining ultrasound machines. According to the organization, this funding, which has allowed CPCs to provide pregnant women with live sonogram images of the developing fetus, has led directly to the birth of over 1500 babies who would have otherwise been aborted.
Focus on the Family also supports prohibition of all gambling in America, a position which has created some controversy within the Christian community as gambling is not explicitly prohibited in the Bible, and many churches hold minor hold gambling contests, especially bingo, to raise funds. Focus’ insistence on this position, as a result, has been interpreted as “extra-Biblical doctrine” that was created by some within the Christian Right who are personally opposed to gambling. At the November 14, 2007 House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Hearing on Establishing Consistent Enforcement Policies in the Context of Online Wagers”, Family Research Council Vice President Tom McClusky testified that his organization favored banning Internet poker in the United States. When questioned further by Steve Cohen [D-TN] on how much gambling FRC advocated banning, McClusky testified that FRC wished to ban all gambling in America, including even poker. Upon hearing this, Rep. Cohen incredulously asked "is there any fun you are for?", leading many in the blogosphere to nickname FoF “Foes of Fun”.
Focus on the Family broadcasts a national talk radio program of the same name hosted by Dobson or his aides. The program has a range of themes, such as Christian-oriented assistance for victims of rape or child abuse; parenting difficulties; child adoption; husband/wife roles; family history and traditions; struggles with gambling, pornography, alcohol, and drugs; and many other themes. When programs deal with civic issues, listeners often respond to these programs by contacting political leaders.
Focus on the Family has been a prominent supporter of intelligent design, publishing pro-intelligent design articles in its Citizen magazine and selling intelligent design videos on its website. Focus on the Family co-published the intelligent design videotape Unlocking the Mystery of Life with the Discovery Institute, hub of the intelligent design movement. Focus on the Family employee Mark Hartwig is also a fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a connection which has helped to publicize intelligent design extensively; James Dobson often features intelligent design proponents on his Focus on the Family radio program. Focus on the Family's Family.org is a significant online resource for intelligent design articles.
In 2008, Dobson's "Focus on the Family" program was nominated for induction into the Radio Hall of Fame. Nominations were made by the 157 members of the Hall of Fame and voting on inductees was handed over to the public using online voting. The nomination drew the ire of gay rights activists, who launched efforts to have the program removed from the nominee list and to vote for other nominees to prevent "Focus on the Family" from winning. However, on July 18, 2008, it was announced that the program had won and would be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in a ceremony on November 8, 2008. TruthWinsOut.org, a gay rights group, has said they will protest the ceremony.