Under the leadership of James Dobson, Focus on the Family was infamous for distorting the work of researchers, earning it the nickname, “Focus on the Fallacies.”
Then, the organization was labeled, “Focus on the Foolishness” after Dobson suggested that Sponge Bob was gay. (Yes, the cartoon sponge that lived in a pineapple under the sea)
We must also remember, “Focus on the Fairytale”, the name given the organization after I photographed its “ex-gay” leader John Paulk in a gay bar.
With Dobson retiring, however, it is clear that Focus on the Family is adrift and searching for a new mission. It may have found one in its blistering attack on the play “Santa Claus is Coming Out”.
Instead of helping real families in a time of economic upheaval, the right wing organization is in a tizzy over this comedy that poses the serious question: “What if Santa Claus were actually gay?”
By using an imaginary icon, we can explore how people would react if a real superstar, such as a politician, athlete, or leading man in Hollywood came out of the closet. Given the stereotypes and prejudice against GLBT people, this is a legitimate subject well worth exploring.
Unfortunately, Focus on the Family provides the answer by exploiting this issue for political gain and distorting the essence of the production. The Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network (GLSEN) will also benefit from a charity performance of “Santa Claus is Coming Out”, giving Focus on the Family further reason to misrepresent the play, as they did in its bigot blog Citizenlink.
In a story headlined “GLSEN Fundraiser Sexualizes Santa”, the group claims that the comedy, “perverts the innocence of Christmas and sexualizes the longtime, child-revered icon of Santa Claus.” The group went on to claim that the goal of Santa Claus is Coming Out is to, “desensitize kids and attack parents’ God-given rights to protect their innocence.”
Interestingly, Focus on the Family had no such concern about “innocence” when it heedlessly and needlessly “outed” Sponge Bob a few years ago to millions of youth. Until Dobson spoke, who knew that Bob’s pineapple was a gay bar that made divine tropical drinks?
The charges leveled against Santa Is Coming Out are ludicrous, if not libelous. In an interview with Instinct Magazine, Playwright Jeffrey Solomon rebutted Focus on the Family’s bogus charges.
“We have not marketed this play with sex,” said Solomon. “The play is not about sex. The play simply asks a hypothetical question: ‘How would the world react, if Mrs. Claus were revealed to be a beard, and that Santa Claus was actually a gay man?’ The very mention or the image of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people is not automatically sexual, unless you are viewing them with sex-tinted glasses.”
Solomon is correct to say that Focus on the Family is choosing to sexualize a non-sexual comedy in order to rile up its batty base. What the group means when it says parents have “God-given rights to protect their (childrens’) innocence,” is that fundamentalist Christians are superior to the rest of us. That they have the unique “right” to censor and silence people who disagree with their “Valuless Traditions” disguised as “Traditional Values”.
Sorry, but in America GLBT families are a positive reality and they will not just disappear or hide because hate groups are opposed to their very existence. Indeed, it is poor parenting to instill prejudice in young people and preach intolerance in the name of religious belief. America’s youth should be taught to respect all people and be presented with a realistic view of our nation’s diverse families. To do otherwise is irresponsible and a failure to prepare a child to succeed in the world.
Isn’t it time that Focus on the Family take its huge budget of more that $125 million and help real families stay together? Has this group done anything substantive to address the divorce rate in America? Has it stopped child or spousal abuse? Has this wealthy organization increased living wages so families can afford to stay together?
Instead it wastes precious time and money on petty, media-friendly pet issues that play well to frothing fundamentalists who get worked into a lather and then donate what little money they have left over from their paychecks.
By attacking this play, Focus on the Family has earned a new nickname: “Focus on the Frivolous.”
I applaud Jeffrey Solomon and director Joe Brancato for producing a play that will make people think, which is a heck of a lot more than Focus on the Family is asking of its followers.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”