By Jessica MacGilvray
May 7, 2011 - 12:37:48 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Very few people are of two minds about organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Focus on the Family (FOF), and there are very, very few people who support either of these and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). They are very competitive organizations.
However, few people know much about these organizations, even if they do support them. So, let's briefly look at some plain information:
ACLU was founded in 1920 by Crystal Catherine Eastman, Roger Nash Bladwin and Walter Nelles.
NOM was founded in 2007 by Maggie Gallagher.
NGTLF was founded in 1973 by Dr. Howard Brown and Bruce Voeller.
FOF was founded in 1977 by James Dobson.
So, who were these folks?
American Flag. Photo by Jocelyn Holt
Eastman was a leader in the fight for women's right to vote and a founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Baldwin was a Harvard educated sociologist and social worker. He became chief probation officer of the St. Louis Juvenile Court.
Nelles was a Yale-educated attorney whose legal practice was the subject of an illegal search in 1918, prompting him to become a lifelong proponent of due process of law.
Gallagher studied religious studies at Yale and is a lifelong champion of conservative social policy.
Dr. Brown was an army veteran who became a physician under the GI Bill and practiced medicine in Ohio and New York before becoming a gay activist in the 1970s.
Voeller was a professor of biology at the Rockefeller Institute and became a gay activist in New York in the early 1970s.
Dobson received his doctorate in psychology from USC and taught psychology there for some years. He was a proponent of corporal punishment and anti-pornography before founding FOF and serving on its board.
Quite a diverse group but what do their organizations stand for?
Here are the organizations' statement of purpose:
ACLU: To defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.
NOM: To protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.
NGTLF: To build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and to support the struggle for complete equality and to support the respect for the diversity of human expression and identity and to create equal opportunity for all.
FOF: Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive, providing help and resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect God’s design, and for parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles.
Now, let's get technical. All of these organizations are non-profit charitable organizations under the US 501(c)3 designation. One of the principle requirements of tax-exemption is a non-partisan status. The ACLU is rigidly non-partisan, with a long history of defending civil rights issues of many different parties and interests, often shocking members by defending such diverse groups as legal migrant workers' right to vote and neo-Nazi groups' right to march. NOM and FOF support is confined almost entirely to republican candidates and often advocates very specific candidates and legislative measures. NGTLF does the same, but for democratic candidates and legislation.
But the biggest divide between these two groups of differing organization lies in the character of their support and opposition:
ACLU and NGTLF oppose special privilege and special rights for some. They support equal rights for all under the law.
NOM and FOF oppose equal rights for all under the law, and support special consideration and privilege for some.
Basically, both NOM and FOF support a position that there are things that are right and things that are wrong, and beyond that, that there are people who are good and people who are bad. FOF in particular supports a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible and considers those who ascribe to different beliefs, especially Muslims and atheists, to be anti-ethical. Either you agree with them entirely, or you are entirely wrong.
Both the ACLU and NGTLF are broad consortiums of diverse people of many different beliefs. They judge people and groups not by their beliefs but by the effect of their actions upon people in the community. The principle ethical consideration of the NOM and FOF groups is rigid conformity to ideals, whereas the ACLU and NGTLF consider benefit or harm to the community to be the principle ethical consideration.
In today's complex and divisive political environment, it is always important to evaluate not only what organizations say about themselves and what they do, but also to critically evaluate the organizations' actions and the effect that those actions have on others. If we fail to rigorously employ this scrutiny, we risk welcoming in values of doctrinal ideologues every bit as rigid and inflexible as anything seen in Iran or Pakistan. How will you vote?
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