Monday, October 20, 2008

Dump Dobson

Those of you who noticed my minor blog re-design might have seen the poll on the left column:

"Should the National Radio Hall of Fame & Museum reverse its decision to honor James Dobson's group Focus on the Family?"

This poll references the National Radio Hall of Fame's upcoming honoring and induction of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. For some background, Dobson broadcasts the evangelical Christian-themed "family" (code word for anti-gay) radio show Focus on the Family, has founded the anti-gay Family Research Council, and seeks to "heal" same-sex attraction. What is most disturbing, in light of Dobson's self-imposed status as Arbiter of Morality, is that multiple researchers have accused Dobson of distorting and misrepresenting their academic research as part of a dishonest anti-gay agenda.

Why was Dobson inducted?

Apparently, this year's hall of fame voting process was changed from the previous years. In an open letter addressing this "controversy," the Hall of Fame Chairman wrote that in previous years, "voting on the annual nominations was open to the general public only if individuals were members of the Museum of Broadcast Communications (home of the National Radio Hall of Fame), or became new online members by payment of a $15 fee. A change in the voting process for 2008 enabled the general public to vote for nominees online without joining the Museum."

Because of this year's change allowing anyone to vote, as Wayne Besen says, "James Dobson used his Focus on the Family show, which runs on 3,000 radio stations, to essentially stuff the ballot box."

Not surprisingly, a "DumpDobson" coalition has sprung up to oppose the induction of Focus on the Family. I, too, strongly oppose the induction of James Dobson into the Radio Hall of Fame. In fact, I will be attending the protest of his induction. I have no doubt that some in the anti-gay movement will characterize this protest as "censorship" and "fascism" so let me be very clear. I believe in free speech and I do not think that Dobson or his intolerant organizations and radio show should be censored. But I do believe that those of us who are privileged enough to live in a nation that values free speech have the duty to use this privilege responsibly. And, we should not honor those who use their privilege irresponsibly, as Dobson undoubtedly does.

It is admirable that Dobson has built a media empire. Yet, the decision to bestow an award on a communicator must take into account the content of that person's message. James Dobson and Focus on the Family will tell you that they do not hate gay men and lesbians. That might be true. But what is undeniable is that it is a warped version of love to condemn all gay men and lesbians as being inherently more immoral and more sinful than heterosexuals. What is undeniable is that, even if Dobson himself does not wish harm on gay people, it is profoundly irresponsible to use a loving religion to promote the condemnation and discrimination of LGBT persons.

As Wayne Besen has said, Dobson "has built his following by exploiting fear, promoting hatred and appealing to humanity's lowest common denominator. His broadcasts have sharpened divisions in society, poisoned politics and made America a more hostile nation...."

Free speech is our right. Yet it is also a responsibility.

So even though there is likely nothing we can do to prevent the squeaky wheel from getting the grease this time, we must continually remind Americans that the loudest voice is not the only voice. And, the loudest voice is not always the voice of morality, truth, and love even if it promotes itself as such at every opportunity.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
-1 Corinthians 13:1

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