American Family Association (AFA)

Religious interest groups represent a relatively fresh phenomenon in lobbying within the United States. Typically, they comprise of faith-based groups which use their influential position to highlight issues of grave concern to their member’s philosophies in a bid to guide the implementation of policies based on biblical principles. Religious interest groups, therefore, endeavor to influence decision-makers by advocating for policies reflecting their follower’s opinions. The American Family Association (AFA) is a leading conservative Protestant organization in the United States which adheres to a set of Christian principles. It is categorized as a 501(c) (3) organization owing to the fundamentalist ideals espoused by its members. In recent years, the group has taken an unsympathetic position on abortion and Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights to influence public policy. American Family Association is concerned with the promotion of decency as per biblical ethics and addresses moral issues affecting American families. A review of this prominent religious interest group is, therefore, fundamental with a special focus on its history, stated purpose, philosophy, techniques of operation and biblical foundation for its activities. Furthermore, this paper will also review the group’s activities at the national, state and local levels, current legislative agenda, overall effectiveness and recommendations on how it can improve its efficacy. 

History of American Family Association

The American Family Association is the brainchild of Donald Wildmon who incepted the group in 1977. Its headquarters are in Tupelo, Mississippi which was the then capital of Christian fundamentalism within the United States. The organization was initially known as the National Federation for Decency (NFA) which sought to promote the implementation of biblical ethic decency within various forms of media.  Five years after its creation, the organization changed its name to the American Family Organization (AFA) with the aim of addressing a myriad of moral problems affecting the typical America family.  This later transformed into activism undertakings and boycotts to influence government policy. AFA is now regarded as one of the most influential religious interest group within the United States, even rivaling Fortune 500 companies in impact. Wildom’s activities first began in 1978 when he protested Sear’s sponsoring Three’s Company and Charlie’s Angels.  His success in forcing a franchise to stop financial support to select entities and rallying followers behind a specific cause soon made him a force to reckon with in the United States.

Wildmon was particularly opposed to the presence of pornography and homosexual content in media outlets. He personally wrote to Bob Guccione, a publisher at Penthouse magazine, expressing his opposition to their material. Although it was within the publisher’s right to print and circulate the publication, 7-Eleven heeded Wildom’s call and removed the magazines from its stores.  The organization has also staunchly opposed the liberalization of homosexuality within the United States.  In 1997, the organization urged its followers to formally boycott Walt Disney for what they referred to as a “propensity to support the gay agenda”. AFA also included Ford in its list of companies to be boycotted for advertising pornographic material. In recent years, the organization has set its sights on corporations which support the LGBT agenda.  AFA expects company directors to be neutral on the homosexual agenda and has openly stated that it will boycott enterprises supporting this cause. The organization is also politically active and endorses any candidate who shares their defining values on faith and family. AFA also runs a sophisticated channel of correspondence with its followers, urging them to always name and shame companies that violate moral codes.

Stated Purpose, Philosophy, and Techniques of Operation

            AFA was established by Wildmon for a specific mission. The organization endeavors to support and inform individuals whose principles grounded on a firm Christian foundation. Additionally, the organization also seeks to support the Great Commission and support the church. The organization’s stated purpose is based upon the idea that the absolute truth was communicated by God to humanity, which is why it is essential to adhere to stipulations provided by God.  This biblical truth is regarded as the best and most sustainable framework for a complex Western society such as the United States. AFA seeks to transform the demeanor of individuals using the gospel of Christ to effectively transform the American society and guide it to an ideal future. Furthermore, the organization also regards God as an important element which is also why its actions are guided by a Christian way of life.

            AFA’s philosophy is based on the idea that the absolute truth was delivered to mankind by God, which is why every individual has a duty to obey His word.  Individuals are expected to acknowledge God’s authority and strive to live as per biblical law within a contemporary setting. By so doing, the society is projected to progress as envisioned by the Founding Fathers of the United States. The organization’s philosophy also highlights the importance of avoiding evil and always striving to expose works of darkness5. Additionally, it also seeks to champion virtue in society by underscoring the importance of living according to the scripture. AFA’s philosophy also engages in activities that raise individual’s awareness of Christ’s grace and his ability to forgive sinners2. The objective of this particular tenet is to motivate the American populace to take a stand on topical moral issues affecting the society. Activism activities are, therefore, directed at media integrity, morality, decency, the preservation of marriage and the sanctity of human life.

            AFA’s operations are conducted with the primary aim of holding corporations accountable whenever they endorse programs which seemingly attack traditional family values. Additionally, the organization also recognizes and commends firms that behave responsibly within American society. AFA’s operations have been the primary responsibility of Donald Wildmon who has been its chairman since 1978. Due to his recent retirement, the position is now occupied his son who also doubles as its president. Tim Wildmon now liaises with an independent board of directors and tasked with managing the AFA Journal. The magazine address issues of concern to American Christian and political correctness within the country. Also spreads its message through its American Family Radio (AFR) frequency to ensure that Christian programs are readily available to the public.

Biblical Foundations for AFA’s Purpose and Activities

AFA’s purpose and accompanying activities are all based on firm biblical foundations. This strategy ensures that the society is fashioned according to God’s word and as described in scripture. For instance, the organizations mission and purpose is based on the idea that the American culture should adhere the Word of God as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. AFA’s core beliefs are enshrined in the Holy Trinity and the belief that it is important to regenerate the human soul using the Holy Spirit. The organization also seeks to uphold the institution of marriage as described in the Bible. According to AFA, marriage is a life-long commitment between a man and a woman for the posterity. The organization firmly believes that this principle should always be upheld to create a society based on Christian ideals. Furthermore, the Biblical foundation that sexual contact should only be enjoyed between a man and a woman has been a controversial subject in contemporary society. AFA opposes homosexuality, adultery and fornication which it describes as forms of sexual sin that are now prevalent in American society.

Assessment of AFA’s Activities at the National, State and Local Level 

AFA’s activities encompass the national, state and local level to ensure that policies are swayed towards a Christian disposition. The group has been in protest, letter-writing campaigns and boycotts with the aim of promoting socially conservative values within the American society. AFA’s activities oppose the prevalence of homosexuality and obscenity in society.  It reacts to this modern-day reality by boycotting companies promoting these apparent controversies by boycotting their premises, products and services. Ford Motor Company, McDonald Corp., Ikea and Target have been identified by AFA for promoting the LGBT agenda prompting a nationwide boycott. The idea behind this brazen strategy is to influence public opinion and policy through an elaborate Christian agenda. Coupled petitions and direct mailings, the organization has successfully influenced legislators to consider their opinions whenever major strategies are introduced. AFA’s involvement at a national level was evident in 2010 when it successful removed Supreme Court justices in Iowa for approving same-sex marriage. Institutions and enterprises with a “misguided” policy are identified by the organization and openly castigated for normalizing homosexuality.

AFA’s Current Legislative Agenda 

          AFA has emerged as a leading voice within the American activism landscape with the main being to transform the manner in which laws are formulated and implemented in the country. The organization is particularly interested in identifying legislators who clamor “anti-American” practices to become the norm in the United States. This ensures that legislators remain aware of the groups influence when enacting and only support polices based on scripture. AFA is also quite critical of the Equality Act and is categorical in its opposition of the basic tenets. The act is famous for introducing gender and sexual inclusivity in the United States. It also outlines the public accommodation of all individuals, in addition to providing its definition of gender identity and sexual orientation. The act further outlaws the discrimination and segregation of individuals based on their sexual orientation. AFA critiques this legislation as a slippery slope that may ultimately cost the United States’ moral and social fabric. The organization views this legislation as a threat to the American way of life and its traditions through the rise of radical liberals. To AFA, the Equality Act will have a negative effect on Christian ideologies and institutions that define nation.

AFA’s Overall Effectiveness

AFA is widely regarded as one of the most influential and effective religious rights group in the history of the United States. The organization has successfully used petitions, boycotts, letter-writing and protests to oppose indecencies in the media capable of affecting the morality of American families. AFA’s strategies have influenced both government and private enterprises to review their policies to reflect its principles. The organizations use the internet and social networking platforms to reach its army of close to 3.5 million subscribers and provide them with regular updates4. Followers are also expected to identify instances of moral decadence in society and businesses supporting such trends. AFA’s effectiveness is now evident in its regular meetings with company executives to discuss controversial advertisements and plan their removal.

Recommendations on how AFA can improve its Effectiveness

Although AFA has made numerous gains within the past four decades, the organization is still fallible and needs to address several areas which need improvement. AFA should tone down its abrasive rhetoric to gather momentum within the United States and enjoy public support within American culture. It is currently labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which may eventually lead many to distance themselves from its activities3. Leading figures within the organization must also endeavor to properly manage the public’s perception of the group. Negative and offensive statements by leading executives can affect followers negatively within society. AFA can counteract this by selecting leaders who are capable of transforming the organization’s image, consequently improving its efficacy.

Conclusion            

The American Family Association (AFA) is one of the foremost conservative rights group in the United States. Formed in 1977, it follows fundamentalist Christian principles with the main aim of protecting the moral fabric of American society. AFA has openly criticized abortion and the LGBT movement for infringing upon core Christian ideologies. The organization has successfully staged boycotts, marches and petitions to influence legislations on a local, state and national level. Nevertheless, the organization should adopt a less confrontational stance to avoid being labeled as a hate group and work towards influencing policy.

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