By Jennifer Smith-Holladay
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, was recently quoted in the press claiming that children’s cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants was part of the “homosexual agenda.”
The proof? SpongeBob appears in a new video for schools produced by the We Are Family Foundation, and the Foundation’s website includes the Declaration of Tolerance, a pledge from Tolerance.org.
The Declaration states in part, “I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.”
The “sexual identity” part alarmed Dr. Dobson.
It’s the “beliefs” part that’s hard for me.
Focus on the Family’s stated mission is to “cooperate with the Holy Spirit in disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and, specifically, to accomplish that objective by helping to preserve traditional values and the institution of the family.”
Yet, Focus on the Family often seems more intent on disseminating the anti-gay gospel than the Gospels of Jesus Christ (which, by the way, never once mention gay people).
Its anti-gay crusade kicked off in 1992, when Dobson used his highly popular radio show to turn Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2 into a fundamentalist cause celebre. The anti-gay crusade continues:
Among the scores of anti-gay commentaries, stories and products on the Focus on the Family website is a Dobson essay that strikes a typical note: “Moms and Dads, are you listening? This [gay] movement is the greatest threat to your children. It is of particular danger to your wide-eyed boys, who have no idea what demoralization is planned for them.”
Dobson spearheaded the successful national campaign against gay marriage in 2003 and 2004.
Even Christian conservative C. Everett Koop, President Reagan’s surgeon general, has called Dobson “homophobic.”
So how then do I muster respect, tolerance even, for Dr. Dobson when he constantly maligns my gay brothers and sisters and engages in shameful amounts of fear mongering? How do I respect a man whose beliefs so often contradict my own?
The key to tolerating Dobson may lie somewhere within our democracy’s principles. I believe in Dr. Dobson’s right to hold and express his beliefs; freedoms of religion and expression are core tenets of our democracy. I also believe that our democracy allows for both Dr. Dobson and a child with two moms.
Things get tough after that though, since Dobson actively seeks to limit the rights and freedoms of others. Worse, I suspect he wants our democracy to resemble a Christian theocracy.
I don’t have an easy answer. The one thing I do know: When I sign the Tolerance Pledge today, I’ll be thinking of Dr. Dobson and paying special attention to the line that says, “I will examine my own biases and work to overcome them.” This essay originally appeared on Tolerance.org, the news and activism Website of Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.