The American Family Association (AFA) proudly describes itself as one of the largest and most effective “pro-family” organizations in the United States.
This doesn’t mean that AFA advocates for healthcare or paid family leave or family planning or education funding or laws that protect abused children, or aid to dependent children, or other evidence based services that promote family flourishing. Nope; it means they use their legal clout and broadcast media to oppose gay rights in places like Indiana, obstruct access to abortion care, repeal universal healthcare, and defund public services and regulations.
AFA’s Peculiar “Pro-Family” Priorities
The nearest thing to pro-family advocacy that jumps out on the AFA website is a petition, now signed by 171,000 supporters, urging TLC television network to keep the uber-breeding Duggars on the air, because “rabid homosexual activists have made America’s favorite family enemy Number One.”
Other recent articles lament the decline of religious freedom in America, discuss the need for a spirit filled revival in the Church, wax eloquent about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and exhort believers to get involved in the 2016 election–because America’s last best hope is to elect a devout president who will “boldly allow God’s moral standards to guide his public policy decisions.”
In case Christians aren’t entirely aligned and clear about what God’s pro-family policy agenda might be, Bryan Fischer, AFA blogger, former issue analyst, and radio host, spells it out:
- Politically, a president with sufficient courage and will can almost single-handedly engineer a political revolution his first day in office. He can, beginning on day one, revoke every single one of our current president’s misguided executive orders. He can use legitimate executive orders to shut down the unconstitutional and unauthorized dictates of every single executive branch agency, beginning with the EPA.
- He can insist that immigration laws be vigorously and immediately enforced. He can insist that a double layer security fence be built along our southern border as the law already calls for. He can veto budgets that provide any ongoing funding for amnesty.
- He can veto budgets that furnish taxpayer money to abortion providers. He can veto budgets that spend any taxpayer dollars to promote anything other than abstinence and man-woman marriage.
- He can veto budgets that fund ObamaCare, increase federal spending, fund wasteful welfare programs, or impair our national defense.
You might think it odd that these “pro-family” policy priorities align so poorly with the pro-family priorities of, say, Moms Rising, which include things like maternity and paternity leave, flexible work, toxin free environments, healthcare, childcare, sick leave, and nutritious food—but the Lord works in mysterious ways.
AFA vs. Military Religious Freedom Foundation
One of those divine mysteries is why the AFA’s pro-family priorities have included long and passionate advocacy to ensure that evangelical fundamentalist military officers and NCO’s are free to proselytize their subordinates.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which goes head to head with AFA in this arena, takes a different position. Their lawyers argue that permitting a commanding officer to promote his or her beliefs or church can create a hostile work environment for soldiers who may have other spiritual beliefs and priorities. Soldiers who have reached out to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation for assistance in dealing with religious boundary violations include Pagans, atheists, Muslims, Jews and thousands of mainline Christians who don’t share the fundamentalist view of the Bible.
After butting heads with the AFA, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation took out a full-page ad in the AFA’s hometown newspaper. It depicted the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution next to a Bible, with the words USA Law above the former and AFA Law above the latter. Bold letters beneath declared, RELIGION RULES IRAN, NOT THE USA.
Theocracy Graphic Appears, Disappears
The AFA responded by posting a revised version of the same picture at their website, with the words, THESE LAWS [the Constitution] are based on THESE LAWS [the Bible]. A caption beneath the pictures read, “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis for all our civil constitutions and laws. – Noah Webster.”
But not long after it was published, the Constitution-Bible graphic disappeared, along with any mention of the controversy.
The AFA promotes the idea that Christians rule—or should—and they frequently quote historical figures who shared their religion and perspective. Fischer’s electoral rallying cry ends with the following statement, “John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, said, ‘It is the duty, privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.’ It’s time we took his advice.”
That seems pretty clear.
So one can’t help but wonder which line, exactly, the Constitution-Bible graphic crossed. Was it the historical inaccuracy—the bogus claim that the Constitution is based on the Bible? Or were AFA’s theocratic intentions a little too quotably clear? Or was it that they didn’t want anyone being reminded, even indirectly, of the parallel between their ideal government and that of Iran?
Update: As of 6:30 p.m. on April 8, the graphic is up at the AFA website with a notation that the post was last updated at 2:35pm.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.
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