Part of my job involves keeping track of mentions of Focus on the Family and Dr. James Dobson in the media. As you might imagine, with the explosion of the blogosphere, Google alerts letting me know the ministry or the man who founded it have been named in someone’s writings fly into my inbox at roughly the speed of a space shuttle.
Many are positive, many are critical — and most come from blogs with probably no more than a few hundred readers. My reaction in most cases, even the most vicious attacks, is, “Well, everybody’s entitled to an opinion.” But no one is entitled to gerrymander the facts to reach that opinion.
That appears to be what happened in a recent post on the Web site of World magazine titled Religious Right flip-flops. The thesis of blogger Alisa Harris’ commentary is faulty — which might explain why many of her facts are, too. Central to her analysis is that socially conservative evangelicals — that’s “Religious Right” if you’re playing the secular media’s name game — all fit snugly under a single tent; problem is, that never has been accurate. Our movement is a vast and varied one — from political insiders who see pragmatism as the best way to effect long-term change, to more prophetic voices whose allegiance is to principles — not candidates, political parties or even election results.
It is into this second camp that Dr. Dobson falls. Ms. Harris accuses him, quite incorrectly, of “flip-flopping” on the standards that will guide his ballot-casting this November. The truth? Dr. Dobson made it clear, speaking as a private citizen from as early as January 2007, that he could not support Sen. John McCain’s candidacy. He said the same of the candidacies of Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson later last year. He also said, as Ms. Harris notes, he would vote for a third-party candidate if both major parties nominated standard-bearers not committed to the sanctity of human life. That commitment to not cast a ballot for someone who would end preborn life has not wobbled one whit: certainly not in Dr. Dobson’s indication he could vote for either Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, the two candidates who unapologetically championed the pro-life cause; or in his endorsement in February of Gov. Huckabee, still in the race at the time.
More disturbing, though, is Ms. Harris’ statement that Dr. Dobson remains unhappy even though the GOP, in McCain, has anointed someone with an “unimpeachable pro-life voting record.” That is patently untrue. Sen. McCain led the charge in the Senate on two bills that would have allocated federal money for lab experiments on human embryos — tiny human lives that would have been killed after the tests were done. Thankfully, President Bush understood that you can’t call yourself pro-life and abide the slaughter of nascent human beings in the name of suspect science. He vetoed the immoral legislation, knowing it would lead to cloning. Dr. Dobson agrees with the president’s position, which is one of the reasons he is “still not happy” with the GOP’s ’08 nominee.
Still, Ms. Harris goes on to say Dr. Dobson recently told Sean Hannity he would vote for Sen. McCain anyway — evidence of yet another apparent flip-flop. In truth, what Dr. Dobson said on Hannity’s America a few weeks ago was that he certainly would vote, but gave no indication for whom, emphasizing the importance of the candidates and issues down the ballot and expressing his belief that we have a God-given responsibility to let our voices be heard. Again, there is nothing inconsistent in these pronouncements.
Dr. Dobson has spent 35 years “in the arena,” as Theodore Roosevelt said, defending the value of all human life and the importance of traditional marriage as a building block of society. He’s taken his fair share of hits from the media (even the Christian media, including World) for the stands he’s taken. Those positions spring not from expediency, but from conscience and principle. It is an honor to serve such a man, because he is the antithesis of a flip-flopper. He is guided by deeply held biblical convictions — and is unafraid to defend his beliefs against those who would mock or misrepresent them.
Gary Schneeberger is vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family Action.
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