If you had told me a month ago that I’d be devoting my February letter to a cartoon character named SpongeBob SquarePants, I’d have said you were crazy. Nevertheless, by now you probably know that I have been linked to that famous talking sponge by hundreds of media outlets, from the New York Times to "MSNBC" to "Saturday Night Live." The story of how this situation unfolded is somewhat complicated, but it must be told.
In truth, this tale has very little to do with SpongeBob himself, and everything to do with the media’s ability to obscure the facts and to direct lies and scorn toward those of us who care about defending children. It all began on an evening in late January, during Inaugural Week in Washington, D.C. At that time, I spoke briefly to 350 guests attending a banquet hosted by Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Gary Bauer’s American Values. I concluded by sharing a word of concern about a video that will be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools across the nation, for use on the proposed "We Are Family Day," March 11.
The video, which millions of children will soon see, features nearly 100 favorite cartoon characters that kids will instantly recognize, including not only SpongeBob, but also Barney the Dinosaur, the Muppets, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, Winnie the Pooh, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Jimmy Neutron and Big Bird.1 The video itself is innocent enough and does not mention anything overtly sexual. Rather, it features the children’s cartoon characters singing and dancing along to the popular disco hit "We Are Family."
But while the video is harmless on its own, I believe the agenda behind it is sinister. My brief comments at the FRC gathering were intended to express concern not about SpongeBob or Big Bird or any of their other cartoon friends, but about the way in which those childhood symbols are apparently being hijacked to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children. Nevertheless, the media jumped on the story by claiming that I had accused SpongeBob of being "gay."2 Some suggested that I had confused the organization that had created the video with a similarly named gay-rights group.3 In both cases, the press was dead wrong, and I welcome this opportunity to help them get their facts straight.
I want to be clear: the We Are Family Foundation — the organization that sponsored the video featuring SpongeBob and the other characters was, until this flap occurred, making available a variety of explicitly pro-homosexual materials on its Web site. It has since endeavored to hide that fact (more on this later), but my concerns are as legitimate today as they were when I first expressed them in January.
So let us consider the evidence. One of the first resources to catch our attention on the foundation’s Web site was a booklet4 that lists a number of organizational "allies," including five of the largest pro-homosexual organizations in the nation: the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Also, the Web site made available school lesson plans that suggested teachers ask these questions of students:
* "How are you affected by homophobia?"
* "How would you be affected by your sexual orientation were it different than it is now?"
* "How will understanding these definitions change your thinking about compulsory heterosexuality and homophobia?
* "How will it change any of your behaviors?"5
From a handout entitled, "Talking About Being Out" there was this:
* "Do you know of any people in your school whose sexual orientation differs from yours?"
* "How do you know?"
* "Are you comfortable with that person or those people?
* "What are some factors that might encourage or discourage a person about being ‘out’ as homosexual or bisexual in this class or school?"
* "Answer the above questions in regard to people in your class or school who consider themselves atheist."6
One of the lesson plans, titled, Uncovering Attitudes About Sexual Orientation, presents what are deemed "stereotypical definitions" of words that encourage bigotry and bias. If you have any doubt about the pro-homosexual agenda inherent to these materials, check out these loaded terms, which could be coming soon to an elementary school near you. (All are direct quotes.)
* Compulsory Heterosexuality: The assumption that women are "naturally" or innately drawn sexually and emotionally toward men, and men toward women; the view that heterosexuality is the "norm" for all sexual relationships. The institutionalization of heterosexuality in all aspects of society includes the idealization of heterosexual orientation, romance, and marriage. Compulsory heterosexuality leads to the notion of women as inherently "weak," and the institutionalized inequality of power: power of men to control women’s sexuality, labor, childbirth and childrearing, physical movement, safety, creativity, and access to knowledge. It can also include legal and social discrimination against homosexuals and the invisibility or intolerance of lesbian and gay existence.
* Gender: A cultural notion of what it is to be a woman or a man; a construct based on the social shaping of femininity and masculinity. It usually includes identification with males as a class or with females as a class. Gender includes subjective concepts about character traits and expected behaviors that vary from place to place and person to person.
* Heterosexism: A system of beliefs, action, advantages, and assumptions in the superiority of heterosexuals or heterosexuality. It includes unrecognized privileges of heterosexual people and the exclusion of nonheterosexual people from policies, procedures, events and decisions about what is important.
* Homophobia: Thoughts, feelings, or actions based on fear, dislike, judgment or hatred of gay men and lesbians / of those who love and sexually desire those of the same sex. Homophobia has roots in sexism and can include prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence.7
Is this the kind of nonsense you want taught to your kids, especially if the nation’s most popular cartoon characters are used to get across the concepts? I pray not!
If you’re planning on visiting the We Are Family Foundation’s Web site [www.wearefamilyfoundation.org] to verify the accuracy of the above information, don’t bother. In the days since this story broke, the majority of overtly pro-homosexual content has been removed. The founder of the organization, Nile Rodgers, appeared on the "Today Show" and said that we had the wrong site and that they had nothing to do with homosexuality.8 That was Jan. 21. Two days later, most of the homosexual content disappeared or became inaccessible. I will leave it for you to determine the motive behind the mysterious vanishing of such material by the We Are Family Foundation. Suffice to say that we have clear documentation that these materials were being promoted on the Web site as recently as late January, despite denials to the contrary.
I’m sure you can see, now, why I expressed great concern about the intention of the We Are Family Foundation in using SpongeBob and company to promote the theme of "tolerance and diversity," which are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy. It seems evident that had this connection not been exposed, the materials accompanying the video would have promoted a pro-homosexual ideology. Again, why do I believe that? Simply put, it’s because the past is often the best predictor of the future. In addition to the above material, a 2003 manual, produced in partnership with the We Are Family Foundation, featured exercises that attempted to equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics, such as race or gender.9
Of particular significance is a so called "Tolerance Pledge" that appears to complement the pro-homosexual propaganda found within the once available school curricula. The second paragraph of the pledge reads as follows:
"To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."10 [Emphasis added.]
The words "sexual identity" in that last sentence hold the key to understanding what is going on here. They reveal a very clever and subtle intent lying below the water line. The stated purpose, as we have seen, is to teach children to respect each other and to accept those who are different. We are entirely supportive of that message. I have been teaching it for years. There appears to be another agenda operating here, however, that has serious implications for your kids. Quite simply, it is to desensitize very young children to homosexual and bisexual behavior.
During my remarks in Washington, I shared my suspicion about children being coerced into signing this "Tolerance Pledge." My critics quickly sought to marginalize my warning. Nile Rodgers exasperatingly explained to "FOX News’" Bill O’Reilly that, "Even on our Web site, we don’t ask people to sign the pledge."11 Oh really? Prior to my speech, the pledge, as it appeared on the foundation’s Web site, concluded with the following paragraph:
"To fulfill my pledge, I __________________ will examine my own biases and work to overcome them, set a positive example for my family and friends, work for tolerance in my own community, speak out against hate and injustice. We share a world. For all our differences, we share one world. To be tolerant is to welcome the differences and delight in the sharing."12
Once the individual filled in his or her name, there was a "submit" button to the right of the pledge that would, ostensibly, officially record that "pledge" commitment. This portion of the pledge has also disappeared from the Web site.
Let me say it again for emphasis: Every individual is entitled to respect and human dignity, including those with whom we disagree strongly. The problem is not with acceptance or kindness, certainly. But kids should not be taught that homosexuality is just another "lifestyle," or that it is morally equivalent to heterosexuality. Scripture teaches that all overt sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage is sinful and harmful. Children should not be taught otherwise by their teachers, and certainly not if their parents are unaware of the instruction.
This is why I brought up this subject at the FRC banquet, explaining that there is a spiritual dimension to the culture war that many parents and grandparents are too busy to have noticed. It targets the values and attitudes of children, which after 12 years of propaganda in the public schools, can mold and shape the next generation. If a million or more very young children are going to be exposed to an organization through a video that encourages people to sign a "tolerance pledge," shouldn’t their moms and dads be told about it? We are just a few days away from the proposed "We Are Family Day" in the schools. Have you been informed of the discussions that may take place in your child’s elementary school in connection with the video, or the pledge that could possibly be placed before them?
What appears to be the case in the We Are Family program is an effort to replicate nationwide the curricula being implemented in California’s elementary schools. From my perspective, it is terribly dangerous.
Imagine a classroom full of wide-eyed five-year olds, sitting in a circle in front of the teacher. These kindergartners will believe anything they are told, from the notion that reindeer can fly on Christmas Eve to the idea that bunnies lay candy eggs during "Spring Break." They are vulnerable to whatever adults tell them. In this instance, the kids are not learning about the alphabet or about exciting fairy tales; they are potentially hearing incomprehensible references to adult perverse sexuality. And the rationale for this instruction is "tolerance and diversity." Generations past would have been shocked and outraged by the very thought of such nonsense. Yet many parents either don’t know of the teaching or are passively willing to go along with it.
Well, this is the story behind the SpongeBob issue that outraged the media. There was a New York Times reporter at the banquet who wrote an article based on my comments. His factual representation was not entirely inaccurate, but it was written in such a way as to imply that it was SpongeBob whom I was attacking.13 From there, the story rapidly escalated. You won’t believe the way I was described by major news organizations. Here are a few examples:
* MSNBC.com posted a commentary on the matter which read in part, "[T]here is a frightening number of so-called Christians who can be best described as creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous — better known by the acronym C.R.A.C.K.P.O.T."14
* James Carville offered these words of wisdom on "CNN": "You know what I think? I think these people have sponge brains."15
* The Los Angeles Times was among the many who mocked my remarks by distorting the truth: "SpongeBob holds hands with his starfish pal Patrick, and likes to watch the imaginary television show ‘The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.’ Evidence enough, to Dobson at any rate, that the guy’s a menace." 16
* "MSNBC’s" Keith Olbermann, one of the most hostile of the commentators, characterized my account of the situation as the goofiest story of the day. He cited a lawyer for the We Are Family Foundation who said that critics of this effort "need medication." Olbermann then added, "We here found it hard to argue with him."17 It might not surprise you that when one of my listeners wrote Mr. Olbermann a polite but pointed email in response to his comments, he replied by saying that emails such as hers would be "treated with the lack of respect they deserve." He went on to chastise her, and wrote, "…you might ask yourself if your actions are any different than someone in a cult."18 And some people still wonder why Americans no longer trust the mainstream media!
* A columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Though the cartoon’s gay agenda has forced Dr. Dobson to denounce it in the strongest terms, at least he hasn’t sunk to the level of the Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. No one is talking about marching with signs that read ‘GOD HATES BOB.’ At least, not yet."19
* The New York Times published an editorial entitled "Nautical Nonsense" that referred to me as "the intolerant Dr. Dobson."20
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
In response, we received more than 100 requests for interviews within 24 hours from media entities within the United States and around the world, including the "Today Show," "CNN," the "BBC," "ABC News," the CBS "Early Show," "Good Morning America," "MSNBC," "National Public Radio," and "Hannity & Colmes" (the only one I accepted). Some of you heard the bogus story and believed it. We received more than 1,200 e-mails in the first few days, almost all of them critical because of my perceived attack on poor SpongeBob. One more time, let me say that the problem is not with SpongeBob or the other cartoon characters. It is with the way they will be used in the classroom.
And that brings me to the larger issue. It does not matter what the secular media says about me. In the final analysis, who cares? What is vitally important, however, are the children of this country and the effort being made to manipulate them for political purposes. As my father reminded Shirley and me when our daughter was in preschool, "Danae is growing up in a world much farther gone into moral decline than the world into which you were born." How much more true that is today than then!
We just came through a Christmas season where, in many schools, traditional carols were prohibited and the birth of Christ could not be mentioned. Macy’s Department Store in New York City banned any reference to Christmas.21 Bible reading and prayer in schools have been outlawed, and since 1980, the Ten Commandments could not be posted on bulletin boards. The Ninth Circuit Court in California did its best to prohibit the words "under God" from being cited by children in the Pledge of Allegiance. On March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property.22 Easter has become "Spring Break," and the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ cannot be celebrated. But Earth Day can be observed in the curricula. "Father God" is out and "Mother Earth" is in. And in the midst of all this secularism, some schools that are having a hard time teaching kids to read, write and compute are giving precious classroom time to homosexual propaganda. That was the observation that motivated my remarks, not some fictitious cartoon character that children love. If you believed the media after having heard me and read my books for years, the question I would ask is, "Why?"
Parents, I urge you to keep a close eye on your sons and daughters. Watch carefully everything that goes into their little minds. Monitor their textbooks and the words of their teachers. Do not turn them over to harmful television programs. When God’s name is used in vain, or when sex and violence come on the screen, turn off the tube and then read and discuss together the scriptures found in Psalm 103:3: "I will set before my eyes no vile thing" [NIV]. Read uplifting and inspiring stories to your children daily. This obligation to teach your children biblical truths continually is unmistakably written in Deuteronomy 6:6-8, which tells us:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. [NIV]
Focus on the Family will continue to help you fulfill this task of bringing up your children "in the fear and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). If you have little ones at home, you might consider signing up for our Focus on Your Child program, which provides a wealth of resources that will help parents implement a decidedly Christian approach to raising children. This donor-sponsored service delivers practical, age-appropriate advice and encouragement right to your home each month. In addition to receiving newsletters and audio journals, members have round-the-clock access to a Web site filled with helpful articles and topical advice. For more information, please visit our Web site at www.focusonyourchild.com.
Thank you for helping us continue to nourish and defend the institution of the family. We would appreciate your help in two ways. First, to pray for us as we seek to fulfill this mission, and second, to assist us financially as you can — after you have met your responsibilities to your local church. Together, we can make a difference.
Sincerely in Christ,
James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and Chairman