"Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built." -- James Dobson
James Clayton "Jim" Dobson, Jr. (born April 21, 1936) is an American evangelical Christian author, psychologist, and founder of Focus on the Family (FOTF). Dobson, who founded the nonprofit organization in 1977 and also chaired it until 2003, has never drawn a salary from the organization, but has used it to promote his related books and publications and has an income through them.
No longer affiliated with Focus on the Family, Dobson founded Family Talk as a 501c3 organization in 2010 and launched a new radio broadcast, Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson that began May 3, 2010 on over 300 stations nationwide.
As part of his former role in the organization, he produced Focus on the Family, a daily radio program which according to the organization was broadcast in more than a dozen languages and on over 7,000 stations worldwide, and reportedly heard daily by more than 220 million people in 164 countries. Focus on the Family was also carried by about sixty U.S. television stations daily. He founded the Family Research Council in 1981.
He is an evangelical Christian with conservative views on politics. He has been referred to as "the nation's most influential evangelical leader" by Time, and Slate has indicated him as a successor to evangelical leaders Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson.
"God has called us to be His representatives in our nation and in our world. Select candidates who represent your views and work for their election.""I'm certain that most couples expect to find intimacy in marriage, but it somehow eludes them.""My observation is that women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership.""One of the problems with sex education... is that it also strips kids - especially girls - of their modesty to have every detail of anatomy, physiology and condom usage made explicit."
James C. Dobson Jr. was born to Myrtle and James Dobson in Shreveport, Louisiana, and from his earliest childhood, Christianity was a central part of his life. He once told a reporter that he learned to pray before he learned to talk. In fact, he says he gave his life to Jesus at the age of three, in response to an altar call by his father. He is the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Church of the Nazarene minister, although he does not speak for the denomination in any capacity.His father, James Dobson Sr., (1911—1977) never went to college, choosing instead the life of a traveling evangelist. Dobson's father was well-known in the southwest, and he and Mrs. Dobson often took their young son along so that he could watch his father preach. Like most Nazarenes, they forbade dancing and going to movies, so young "Jimmie Lee" (as he was called) concentrated on his studies, and also became good at tennis.
Dobson studied psychology, which in the 1950s and 1960s was not looked upon favorably by most evangelical Christians. He came to believe that he was being called to become a Christian counselor or perhaps a Christian psychologist. He decided to pursue a degree in psychology, and ultimately received his doctorate in that field in 1967 from the University of Southern California.
Dobson first became well-known with the publication of Dare to Discipline, which encouraged parents to use corporal punishment in disciplining their children. Dobson's social and political opinions are widely read among many evangelical church congregations in the United States. "Dobson is one of the single most important religious intellectuals and political leaders in America today, and many people take his words very seriously. When Dobson makes such a statement, it is the Evangelical equivalent of a Vatican Decree that is meant to communicate a policy position not only to church goers, but to social conservatives as a whole-specifically, the Republican Party." Dobson publishes monthly bulletins also called Focus on the Family, which are dispensed as inserts in some Sunday church service bulletins. "Like a religious version of Walt Disney, Dobson started with a small idea and built it into a multimedia empire: 10 radio shows, 11 magazines (including specialty publications for doctors, teachers and single parents), bestselling books, film strips and videos of all kinds. Then there are the basketball camps and the curriculum guides, the church bulletin fillers and suggested sermon topics, faxed weekly to thousands of pastors."
Dobson interviewed serial killer Ted Bundy on camera the day before he was executed, in January 1989. The interview was controversial as Bundy was given an opportunity to attempt to explain his actions (the rape and murder of 30 young women). Bundy seemed to blame pornography, something he had never mentioned in hundreds of hours of police and psychological interviews. Dobson is very much anti-pornography. There is also controversy over how much input the relatives of the murder victims had as regards the interview and whether they agreed that it should happen or not. In May 1989, during an interview with John Tanner, a Republican Florida prosecutor, Dobson called for Bundy to be forgiven. The Bundy tapes gave Dobson a profit of nearly $1 million within a year.
Dobson stepped down as President and CEO of Focus on the Family in 2003, and resigned from the position of chairman of the board in February 2009.
Dobson married his wife, Shirley, on August 26, 1960; they have two children, Danae and Ryan. Ryan Dobson, who graduated from Biola University in La Mirada, California, is a public speaker in his own right, speaking on issues relating to youth, the philosophical belief in ontological truth, and the pro-life movement. Ryan Dobson (born in California in 1970) was adopted by the Dobsons and is an ardent supporter of adoption, especially adoption of troubled children.
Degrees, positions, and awards
Dobson attended Point Loma Nazarene University, where he was team captain of the tennis team, most valuable player in 1956 and 1958, and later returned to coach in 1968-1969. Dobson earned a doctorate in child development from the University of Southern California in 1967. He was an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine for 14 years. He spent 17 years on the staff of the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in the Division of Child Development and Medical Genetics. Dobson is a licensed psychologist in the State of California.
At the invitation of Presidents and Attorneys General, Dobson has also served on government advisory panels and testified at several government hearings. He has been given the "Layman of the Year" award by the National Association of Evangelicals in 1982, "The Children's Friend" honor by Childhelp USA (an advocate agency against child abuse) in 1987, and the Humanitarian Award by the California Psychological Association in 1988. In 2005, Dobson received an honorary doctorate (his 16th) from Indiana Wesleyan University and was inducted into IWU's Society of World Changers, while speaking at the university's Academic Convocation.
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 it 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.
James Dobson is a strong proponent of what he calls "traditional marriage". According to his view, women are not deemed inferior to men because both are created in God's image, but each gender has biblically-mandated roles. He recommends that married women with children under the age of 18 focus on mothering, rather than work outside the home.
In the 2004 book Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle, Dobson suggests that heterosexual marriage rates in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have been falling, and that this is due to the recognition of same-sex relationships by those countries during the 1990s. He remarks that traditional marriage "is rapidly dying" in these countries as a result, with most young people cohabiting or choosing to remain single (living alone) and illegitimacy rates rising in some Norwegian counties up to 80%.
Dobson writes that "every civilization in the world has been built upon [heterosexual marriage]," and describes the institution of marriage as "the bedrock of culture in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia, and even Antarctica." He also believes that homosexuality is a learned moral choice and he anecdotally cites as evidence the life of actress Anne Heche, who at one time claimed to be a lesbian but no longer does so. Criticizing "the realities of judicial tyranny," Dobson has written that "[t]here is no issue today that is more significant to our culture than the defense of the family. Not even the war on terror eclipses it."
Critics, such as the Human Rights Campaign, say that Dobson's views on homosexuality do not represent the mainstream views of the mental health community.
Views on schooling
Focus on the Family supports private school vouchers and tax credits for religious schools. According to Focus on the Family website, Dobson believes that parents are ultimately responsible for their children's education, and encourages parents to visit their children's schools to ask questions and to join the PTA so that they may voice their opinions. Dobson opposes sex education curricula that are not abstinence-only. According to People for the American Way, Focus on the Family material has been used to challenge a book or curriculum taught in public schools. Critics, such as People for the American Way, allege that Focus on the Family encourages Christian teachers to establish prayer groups in public schools. Dobson supports student-led prayer in public schools, and believes that allowing student-led Christian prayer in schools does not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Views on discipline within the family
In his book Dare to Discipline, Dobson advocated the spanking of children up to eight years old when they misbehave, but warns that "corporal punishment should not be a frequent occurrence" and that "discipline must not be harsh and destructive to the child's spirit." He warns against "harsh spanking" because "It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely."
Dobson has called disciplining children to be a necessary but unpleasant part of raising children that should only be carried out by qualified parents:
In his book The Strong-Willed Child, Dobson suggests that if authority is portrayed correctly to a child, the child will understand how to interact with other authority figures:
Dobson stresses that parents must uphold their authority and do so consistently, comparing the relationship between parents and disobedient children to a battle: "When you are defiantly challenged, win decisively." In The Strong-Willed Child, Dobson draws an analogy between the defiance of a family pet and that of a small child, and concludes that "just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, so will a little child — only more so." (emphasis in original)
When asked "How long do you think a child should be allowed to cry after being punished? Is there a limit?" Dobson responded:
Dobson's position is controversial. Although spanking is legal in the United States, as early as 1985 The New York Times stated that "most child-care experts today disapprove of physical punishment."
Views on tolerance and diversity
In the winter of 2004-2005, the We Are Family Foundation sent American elementary schools approximately 60,000 copies of a free DVD using popular cartoon characters (most notably Sponge Bob Squarepants) to "promote tolerance and diversity." Dobson contended that "tolerance" and "diversity" are "buzzwords" that the We Are Family Foundation misused as part of a "hidden agenda" to promote homosexuality. Kate Zernik noted Dobson asserting: "tolerance and its first cousin, diversity, 'are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy.'" He stated on the Focus on the Family website that "childhood symbols are apparently being hijacked to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children." He offered as evidence the association of many leading LGBT rights organizations, including GLAAD, GLSEN, HRC, and PFLAG, with the We Are Family Foundation as shown by links which he claims once existed on their website.
The We Are Family Foundation countered that Dobson had mistaken their organization with "an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called 'We Are Family,' which supports gay youth." Dobson countered,
In September 2005, Tolerance.org published a follow-up message advertising the DVD's continued availability, including We Are Family Foundation president Nancy Hunt's speculation that many of the DVDs may be "still sitting in boxes, unused, because of Dobson's vitriolic attack."
Views on homosexuality
Dobson believes that God defines marriage as between one man and one woman only and describes this as the central stabilizing institution of society. Dobson believes that any sexual activity outside of such a union — including homosexuality — cannot be approved by God. In Dobson's view, homosexuality is a choice that is made through influences in a child's environment rather than an inborn trait. He states that homosexual behavior, specifically "unwanted same-sex attraction", has been and can be "overcome" through understanding developmental models for homosexuality and choosing to heal the complex developmental issues which led to same-sex attraction.
Despite Dobson being a licensed clinical psychologist, and his expression of homosexuality in psychological terms, his views differ from the longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions.
Focus on the Family ministry sponsors the monthly conference Love Won Out, where participants hear "powerful stories of ex-gay men and women." Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) has protested against the conference in Orlando, questioning both its methodology and supposed success. In regards to the conference, Dobson has stated that "Gay activists come with preconceived notions about who we are and what we believe and about the hate that boils from within, which is simply not true. Regardless of what the media might say, Focus on the Family has no interest in promoting hatred toward homosexuals or anyone else. We also don't wish to deprive them of their basic constitutional rights... The Constitution applies to all of us." Dobson strongly opposes the movement to legitimize same-sex relationships. In his book Bringing Up Boys, Dobson states that "Homosexuals deeply resent being told that they selected this same-sex inclination in pursuit of sexual excitement or some other motive."
Sociologist Judith Stacey criticized Dobson for claiming that sociological studies show that gay couples do not make good parents. She stated that Dobson's claim "is a direct misrepresentation of my research." In response to Dobson's claim that "there have been more than ten thousand studies that have showed that children do best when they are raised with a mother and a father who are committed to each other," Stacey replied that "[a]ll of those studies that Dobson is referring to are studies that did not include gay or lesbian parents as part of the research base." YouTube - Dr. Judith Stacey on James Dobson's Distortions
Dobson objected to a bill expanding the prohibition of sexual orientation-based discrimination in the areas of "public accommodation, housing practices, family planning services and twenty other areas." He said that, were such a bill passed, public businesses could no longer separate lockerooms and bathrooms by gender, which he claimed would lead to a situation where, "every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence."
Mel White expressed fears that Dobson's ultimate goal is to pressure lawmakers into outlawing homosexuality and have questioned whether he favors reinstituting Old Testament-style death penalties for homosexuality. In an interview with Soulforce, the gay minister said, "Right now [Dobson] just calls us an abomination. But he's warned us that he takes the Bible literally. Does that mean he's just waiting to enforce the execution part? I don't ask that question as an alarmist or an hysteric. I ask that question because it's real."
Although Dobson initially remained somewhat distant from Washington politics, in 1981 he founded the Family Research Council as a political arm through which "social conservative causes" could achieve greater political influence.
In late 2004, Dobson led a campaign to block the appointment of Arlen Specter to head of the Senate Judiciary Committee because of Specter's pro-choice stance on abortion. Responding to a question by Fox News personality Alan Colmes on whether he wanted the Republican Party to be known as a "big-tent party," he replied, "I don't want to be in the big tent... I think the party ought to stand for something." In 2006, Family Research Council spent more than a half million dollars to promote a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in its home state of Colorado.
A May 2005 article by Hedges in Harper's Magazine described Dobson as "perhaps the most powerful figure in the Dominionist movement" and "a crucial player in getting out the Christian vote for George W. Bush." Discernment Ministries, a site that describes dominionism as a heresy, characterized Dobson as belonging to the "Patriotic American" brand of dominionism, calling him "One of its most powerful leaders."
In November 2004, Dobson was described by the online magazine Slate.com as "America's most influential evangelical leader." The article explained "Forget Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who in their dotage have marginalized themselves with gaffes... Dobson is now America's most influential evangelical leader, with a following reportedly greater than that of either Falwell or Robertson at his peak... Dobson may have delivered Bush his victories in Ohio and Florida." Further, "He's already leveraging his new power. When a thank-you call came from the White House, Dobson issued the staffer a blunt warning that Bush 'needs to be more aggressive' about pressing the religious right's pro-life, anti-gay rights agenda, or it would 'pay a price in four years.'... Dobson has sometimes complained that the Republican Party may take the votes of social conservatives for granted, and has suggested that evangelicals may withhold support from the GOP if the party does not more strongly support conservative family issues: "Does the Republican Party want our votes, no string attached — to court us every two years, and then to say, 'Don't call me, I'll call you' — and not to care about the moral law of the universe? ... Is that what they want? Is that the way the system works? Is this the way it's going to be? If it is, I'm gone, and if I go, I will do everything I can to take as many people with me as possible."
However, in 2006, Dobson said that, while "there is disillusionment out there with Republicans" and "that worries me greatly," he nonetheless suggested voters turn out and vote Republican in 2006. "My first inclination was to sit this one out," but according to The New York Times, Dobson then added that "he had changed his mind when he looked at who would become the leaders of Congressional committees if the Democrats took over."
Dobson garnered national media attention once again in February 2008 after releasing a statement in the wake of Senator John McCain's expected success in the so-called "Super Tuesday" Republican primary elections. In his statement, Dobson said: "I cannot, and will not, vote for Senator John McCain, as a matter of conscience," and indicated that he would refrain from voting altogether were McCain to become the Republican candidate, echoing other conservative commentators' concerns about the Senator's conservatism. He endorsed Mike Huckabee for president. After McCain selected a pro-life candidate, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, Dobson said that he was more enthusiastic in his support for the Republican ticket. When Palin's 17-year old daughter's pregnancy was revealed, Dobson issued a press release commending Palin's stance, saying,
On June 24, 2008, Dobson publicly criticized statements made by U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama in Obama's 2006 "Call to Renewal" address. Dobson stated that Obama was "distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview." On October 23, 2008, Dobson published a "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America" that proposed that an Obama presidency would lead to: mandated homosexual teachings across all schools; the banning of firearms in entire states; the end of the Boy Scouts, home schooling, Christian school groups, Christian adoption agencies, and talk radio; pornography on prime-time and daytime television; mandatory bonuses for gay soldiers; terrorist attacks across America; the nuclear bombing of Tel Aviv; the conquering of most of Eastern Europe by Russia; the end of health care for Americans over 80; out-of-control gasoline prices; and complete economic disaster in the United States, among other catastrophes. In the days after the 2008 presidential election, Dobson stated on his radio program that he was mourning the Obama election, claiming that Obama supported infanticide, would be responsible for the deaths of millions of unborn children, and was "going to appoint the most liberal justices to the Supreme Court, perhaps, that we've ever had."
Dobson is an intelligent design supporter and has spoken at conferences supporting the subject, and frequently criticizes evolution. In 2007, Dobson was one of 25 evangelicals who called for the ouster of Rev. Richard Cizik from his position at the National Association of Evangelicals because Cizik had taken a stance urging evangelicals to take global warming seriously.
On June 13, 2007, the National Right to Life Committee ousted Colorado Right to Life after the latter ran a full-page ad criticizing Dobson.
On May 30, 2010, Dobson delivered the pre-race invocation at the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 automobile race, raising some questions about his association with a sport associated with sponsors and activities which would not meet his definition of family-friendly. ,
Dobson and Charles Colson were two participants in a 2000 conference at the Vatican on the global economy's impact on families. During the conference, the two Protestants met with the Pope. Dobson later told Catholic News Service that though he has theological differences with Roman Catholicism, "when it comes to the family, there is far more agreement than disagreement, and with regard to moral issues from abortion to premarital sex, safe-sex ideology and homosexuality, I find more in common with Catholics than with some of my evangelical brothers and sisters."
In November 2009, Dobson signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against their religious consciences.