Pence visits Focus on Family amid change for religious right

Published 5:09 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Vice President Mike Pence’s visit Friday to Colorado to celebrate the anniversary of Focus on the Family came at a time of change for the religious right during the age of President Donald Trump.

Focus on the Family was once well-known for its involvement in politics. But under new leadership, it has dialed that back in an effort by younger evangelicals to withdraw from partisan culture wars.

At the same time, many older evangelicals have stayed the course, helping Trump become president and the religious right gain political power.

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Trump’s win breathed new life into the older-school political approach that Focus on the Family once embodied.

Pence urged the group to rekindle its interest in politics, especially in light of a health care proposal that could dramatically slash support for abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

“The time is now,” Pence said, rousing about 1,650 supporters to their feet when he declared the health law passed under President Barack Obama was “dead.”

“This is when we are going to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all,” Pence said, whipping the standing crowd to whistles and cheers.

Focus was founded in 1977 by James Dobson, a child psychologist who started a radio show advising Christians about being good parents. That effort evolved into Focus on the Family, which at its peak had more than 1,000 employees and served as a platform for Dobson to weigh in on legislation, sit on White House panels and campaign against gay rights.

Dobson left in 2010, and the organization is now about half the size. It’s led by 55-year-old Jim Daly, who has scaled back involvement in politics and sees himself as part of a younger generation of religious leadership.