Focus on the Family Shrinking

Focus on the Family Shrinking September 22, 2011

Focus on the Family continues to shrink, laying off people and seeing its budget go down significantly.

Focus on the Family on Friday announced the layoff of 49 more employees due to decreased donations, bringing down the number of employees to less than half it had in 2002.

This new 7 percent staff reduction in the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based pro-family group brought the employee number to 650, down from a 2002 peak of 1,400 people, according to The Denver Post…

Focus on the Family’s budget for fiscal year 2008-2009 was $160 million, which came down to $138 million in 2009-2010. For the fiscal year 2010-2011 ending Sept. 30, it further shrunk to $105 million, and now officials project it will receive donations of only $90 million to $95 million.

That’s still almost as much as the ACLU’s total budget for last year, and it’s one of many similar organizations, like the Family Research Council, with huge budgets.

Walter Russell Mead uses that fact to make this absurd argument:

In any case, if anybody in America ever establishes a theocracy, it is unlikely to be evangelicals. Almost all American evangelicals come out of religious traditions that were persecuted in either Europe or the US or both by “established” churches tied to the government. It became an article of faith for the persecuted evangelicals that church and state should be kept at arms length. Even in apocalyptic fiction like the Left Behind series, the merger of church and state is one of the signs of the approach of Antichrist and signals the start of a great persecution. For the most part, American evangelicals viscerally loathe the idea that church and state should act together to enforce religious orthodoxy.

Nonsense. The notion that being persecuted in Europe by the established churches there made those who came to America loathe to establish state churches is clearly disproved by history. The Puritans were persecuted in England but that did not stop them from turning the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies into a theocracy. It didn’t prevent most of the colonies from having established churches, religious tests for office and punishment for blasphemy and heresy.

And good luck finding a conservative evangelical leader who embraces the separation of church and state. Baptists at the time of our founding were staunch advocates of separation, but the Southern Baptist Convention today takes the opposite stance. The most influential religious right leaders, like Pat Robertson and David Barton, claim that separation of church and state is a myth and that America is supposed to be an officially Christian nation. They still advocate that the government force schoolchildren to pray, for crying out loud.

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  • They should be loathe to establish a state church, but they’re generally too myopic to look back and learn from history as well as unable to see the dark paths theocracy would take us through.

    And some just don’t care about history or the future. They’re simply ungrateful for the protections the wall of separation provides for them, and unsympathetic to the suffering of anyone on the other “teams.”

  • 386sx

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2040363/Couple-ordered-shut-home-bible-study–face-500-meeting-fines.html

    “The Fromms will reportedly face fines of $500 per meeting for any further ‘religious gatherings’ in their home.”

    Kinda goes against the First Amendment doesn’t it? Granted, they’re probably lying their tails off when they try to paint it as just friendly gatherings with their friends, and granted, they’re probably a couple of hucksters that haven’t fleeced enough flocks yet to buy themselves a church, but what about the Constitution. Lol.

  • I wish the economy were better so I could say “Good, now maybe those people can get honest, socially useful jobs for a change”. But being laid off in this market sucks.

  • Ben P

    The Fromms will reportedly face fines of $500 per meeting for any further ‘religious gatherings’ in their home.”

    Kinda goes against the First Amendment doesn’t it?

    Perhaps, perhaps not.

    I suspect the basis for the town’s ruling is based in a city fire code ordinance that says something to the effect of

    The owner of a residence shall not host public gatherings larger than 20 people except in any building that shall have been inspected and rated by the fire marshal for at least that many persons. The certificate of capacity shall be prominently displayed in the building.

    At no time shall any public gathering in any building exceed the stated capacity of that building.”

    Having “religious gatherings” (which are more or less public) in a private residence could well run afoul of the law and could very well could be the “general application of a neutral law” and be enforceable regardless of whether its prohibiting a bible study or a bingo game.

  • @4: Agreed. The pictures in the article suggest something much bigger than a few folks in a small-group Bible study (I’ve been in those things). Regular gatherings like that for any purpose are problematic, and they should be treated on the basis of safety and nuisance, and religion should not provide an exception. Of course, it seems like the Fromms are trying to spin this as persecution. Quel suprise.

  • I am stunned that they ever had that many employees to begin with. What the heck do they do all day?

  • Scott Hanley

    I’d love to view FotF’s contraction as a sign that they’re becoming irrelevant, but it may just reflect that they’re becoming redundant. The GOP has so thoroughly adopted their viewpoint that I expect many former donors are beginning to cut out the middleman. FotF as an organization might be declining, but their ideology has only grown more powerful.

  • DaveL

    Perhaps, perhaps not.

    I suspect the basis for the town’s ruling is based in a city fire code ordinance that says something to the effect of

    The owner of a residence shall not host public gatherings larger than 20 people except in any building that shall have been inspected and rated by the fire marshal for at least that many persons. The certificate of capacity shall be prominently displayed in the building.

    From what I saw the local authorities were referring to a “regular gathering of more than 3 people” – So apparently having the in-laws over for Sunday dinner every week requires a permit.

  • @8: So apparently having the in-laws over for Sunday dinner every week requires a permit.

    Sounds like one of those bylaws that gets enforced when someone complains, but is otherwise ignored. The trouble is, it’s hard to codify “You’re being a PITA to the whole neighbourhood, now stop it” in to a law, so instead you get ridiculous-sounding ordinances that, taken at face value, ban modest-size dinner parties or parking your car in the driveway overnight, simply because about 1% of the time someone will do something along those lines that actually causes the neighbours some grief, and some legal teeth are needed to deal with it. Which sounds sensible, except that it invites abuse through selective enforcement against individuals or groups who are unpopular for other reasons.

  • thascius

    According to the article the couple was regularly having over 50 people at their house on Sunday mornings. That sort of traffic alone, would be a nightmare in most residential neighborhoods. Requiring a permit for over 3 people would be ridiculous, but over 50 is a far cry from 3.

  • raven

    They were having over 50 people in a residential neighborhood twice a week. In one house. Problems with parking, traffic, and fire codes.

    Orange county is a christofascist stronghold. They are more likely to slaughter atheists, Moslems, and Episcopalians than persecute fundie morons. The county is run by….fundie morons.

  • 386sx

    They were having over 50 people in a residential neighborhood twice a week. In one house. Problems with parking, traffic, and fire codes.

    They want them to get a “conditional use permit”. So if they get a “conditional use permit” than suddenly everything is all better. Around here we have to get a permit to put up a sign in our own property. There’s probably millions of these “zoning” laws all over the country that say the hell with the Constitution, let’s make some extra cash for the city. Let’s stick our noses everywhere and be Mrs. Kravitz from Bewitched (except they would be a bureaucrat Mrs. Kravitz though). Constitution schmonstitution.

  • “FotF as an organization might be declining, but their ideology has only grown more powerful.”

    I disagree. Most evidence suggests that their viewpoint isn’t very popular and is consistently losing ground, especially as younger voters, who are culturally liberal, replace dying older voters who tend to be culturally conservative. FotF and the like are also one of the many reasons why “evangelicals” rank near the bottom of likable and trustworthy people in surveys. They have a hard-core base of support of course, but they’re a turn-off to everyone else. That’s why some Republicans have spoken openly about declaring a truce in the culture war so that it doesn’t harm their core plutocratic agenda.

    None of this is to say that their dwindling finances are due to long-term loss of support. It could just be the economy, or other organizations poaching their donors, or just a temporary fluke. But their gay-hating and other offensive beliefs aren’t going to cut it for much longer.

  • Modusoperandi

    Area Man “I am stunned that they ever had that many employees to begin with. What the heck do they do all day?”

    Spin.

    “That’s why some Republicans have spoken openly about declaring a truce in the culture war so that it doesn’t harm their core plutocratic agenda.”

    Sure. Maybe Frum will give these open-speaking Republicans a spot on his couch when they get run out of the party.

  • dingojack

    I am stunned that they ever had that many employees to begin with. What the heck do they do all day?”

    Stew in their own fear, hatred & envy of everything that their leaders tell them is ‘wrong’ & ‘evil’.

    (And man the phones for donations, of course). – Dingo

  • marymallone

    Thank you for posting this! It has been a not-very-good week, and this news has really cheered me up! Hooray!

  • dingojack

    DADT gets repealled and FOTF shrinks. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s all part of god’s (or gods’) plan.

    As Mr Bek would say: ‘You can’t explain that’. 😀 – Dingo

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Area Man @ # 6: What the heck do they do all day?

    FotF has an extensive publishing and broadcasting operation, including a political arm called CitizenLink that cranks out multiple press releases every day and can, on a moment’s notice, swamp the Congressional switchboard with angry calls about whatever they want.

    Like Reader’s Digest, they generate enough mail to have their own zip code. They also have active affiliates in almost(?) every state, busily working against abortion, contraception, gays, porn (defined rather broadly), evolution, and everything else that gives Baby Jesus screaming colic fits.

    When James Dobson (recently kicked out, apparently for trying to shoehorn in his wayward tattooed-dude son as heir apparent) was running the show, they were the only religious outfit consistently bringing in more money (>$100M/yr) than Pat Robertson.

  • John Hinkle

    …consistently bringing in more money (>$100M/yr) than Pat Robertson.

    Jesus, Joseph, and Mary that’s a lot of cabbage! How many friggin suckers can there be out there? I need to get out more.

    Or maybe not.