Tag Archives: Focus on the Family

Alleged Colorado shooter had been charged with animal abuse, domestic violence

A profile is emerging of the gunman in custody for a shootout yesterday in which three people were killed and nine injured at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

Armed with a military assault weapon, Robert Lewis Dear, 57, allegedly held police at bay for hours during a snowy afternoon shootout that started without warning.

Bearded, tall, stocky and wild-eyed, Dear reportedly had a history of run-ins with the law, including for domestic violence and animal abuse. People who lived near Dear said he frequently handed out anti-Obama literature but his ideology was hard to fathom due to the incoherent nature of his ramblings.

The Daily Beast obtained records from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina, where Dear was a longtime resident with a lengthy history of incident reports. Those included domestic battery, threatening and spying on neighbors, abusing animals and making unwanted advances toward a female neighbor.

Neighbors who lived beside Dear’s former South Carolina home in Walterboro told AP that he hid food in the woods as if he was a survivalist and said he lived off selling prints of his uncle’s paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.

John Hood said Saturday that when he moved to Walterboro, Dear was living in a doublewide mobile home next door. Hood said Dear seemed to be a loner and very strange but not dangerous. He pointed to a wooden fence separating their land and said he put it up because Dear liked to skinny dip.

Hood said that Dear rarely talked and, when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his house so the U.S. government couldn’t spy on him.

“He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm,” he said.

Dear also lived part-time in North Carolina, spending part of his time in a cabin in Black Mountain with no electricity or running water.

He tended to avoid eye contact, said James Russell, who lived a few hundred feet down the mountain from Dear’s cabin. “If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive,” Russell said.

Other neighbors knew Dear too, but they didn’t want to give their names to AP because they said they were scared of him.

Russell and others said the only companion they saw with him was a mangy dog that looked to be in such bad shape they called animal control because they worried he was beating it.

Following the shootout, law enforcement officials closed off an address for Dear in what the Daily Beast called “the remote town” of Hartsel, Colorado, about 60 miles west of Colorado Springs.

There, about a dozen police vehicles and fire trucks were parked today outside a small white trailer belonging to Dear located on a sprawling swath of land, AP reported. Property records indicate Dear purchased the land about a year ago.

An official said authorities searched the trailer but found no explosives. The official, who has direct knowledge of the case, said authorities also talked with a woman who was living in the trailer. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Jamie Heffelman, owner of the Highline Cafe in Hartsel, said residents would occasionally see the 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Dear at the post office to get his mail but he never said much.

“Nobody really knows him. He stays to himself,” she said.

Planned Parenthood under constant fire

Police have not disclosed a motive, but Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said people can make “inferences from where it took place,” referring to the clinic.

A Roman Catholic priest who has held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, however, told The Associated Press that Dear wasn’t part of his group. Anti-choice groups picket PP clinics every day, carrying signs of bloody babies and dolls and accosting women entering the premises with dire warnings.

Planned Parenthood has been under increased attack since July — from Congress to state legislatures to the Republican campaign trail — over an undercover video made by virulent anti-choice activists and released to the press. The video appeared to show PP personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs, but later it was determined that the piece had been misleadingly edited.

Investigations by states and Congress found no wrongdoing in connection with PP’s handling of fetal tissue. Instead, it was learned that PP and other abortion clinics allow pregnant women to donate their fetal tissue to researchers if they wish, and the researchers pay for the cost of maintaining and transporting the tissue.

Still, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide since the video’s release. Republican presidential candidates have made it a central issue in their campaigns.

Arsonists have attacked four PP clinics since September.

At a vigil Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church, Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit. She promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.

Cowart told AP that the gunman “broke in” to the clinic Friday but didn’t get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility. She said there was no armed security when the shooting began.

In the parking lot of the two-story building, one man said the gunman shot at him as he pulled his car out, blasting two holes in his windshield. Inside, one worker ducked under a table and called her brother to tell him to take care of her kids if she was killed.

At one point, an officer whispered reports into his radio as he crept through the building. Others relayed information from surveillance cameras and victims in hiding. “We’ve got a report of a victim texting from just east of the lobby,” someone said.

In the end, a six-year veteran University of Colorado police officer was killed. Two civilians also died, though their identities weren’t immediately released. Five other officers and four people were hospitalized.

Cowart said all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

The attack marked the latest mass shooting to stun the nation, and drew the now-familiar questions about a gunman’s motives and whether anyone, from government to relatives, could have done anything to prevent an attack.

President Obama issued a statement today calling for gun control.

“If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them,” Obama said.

Colorado Springs is home to a very large population of born-again Christians. The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family is headquartered there.

“Rising star” on Delaware’s religious right arrested for raping boy

A “rising star” in conservative Republican politics in Delaware has been charged with 113 counts of sexually abusing a boy more than two decades ago, according to Cape Gazette and other local publications.

Eric Bodenweiser, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges of raping a boy 39 times during a three-year period. The state senate candidate faces 74 charges of second-degree unlawful sexual contact and 39 charges of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse.

The alleged victim is now 35 years old and lives in Florida, the Gazette reported. In an email to the publication, he said that his charges were “not politically motivated.”

The alleged victim has a criminal record in Florida, where he was arrested in 2010 and charged with domestic battery by strangulation and tampering with a state witness.

Bodenweiser is a prominent member of the Delaware Family Council, an anti-gay organization connected to the far-right Focus on the Family.

In his primary race to win the GOP nomination for state senate, Bodenweiser was supported by controversial tea party activist Christine O’Donnell, a former candidate for U.S. Senate. In a video, O’Donnell called the politician a “great man that …has the kind of character that will stand up against corruption, that will do what is right in the face of opposition, in the face of pressure.”

Bodenweiser calls himself a “fiscal and social conservative Christian” in a video and told voters if he was elected he would cut taxes and regulations.

Although ballots with Bodenweiser’s name have already been printed, election officials said they would place stickers over his name on Election Day, according to News Journal. Any votes cast towards him will not be counted.

An assistant superintendent for the Indian River School District in Delaware told the Gazette that Bodenweiser was a mentor for children in middle and elementary schools.

Paul Ryan promises anti-gay group that he’ll fight equality

In a recent interview with Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, Paul Ryan reassured the anti-gay group that a Romney-Ryan administration will fiercely oppose gay rights. Mitt Romney also bowed before the group recently, praising its gay-obsessed founder James Dobson while campaigning in Colorado, where FOF is headquartered.

While Romney has flipped from supporting gay rights as governor of Massachusetts to becoming an ardent opponent, Ryan has a solidly anti-gay voting record in Congress, according to rightwingwatch.com.

During his interview with FOF, Ryan bragged to Daly about being a “big supporter” for the 2006 constitutional amendment in Wisconsin that banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Following is some of the dialogue from Daly’s interview with Ryan, as transcribed by Right Wing Watch.

Daly: “Focus on the Family has been behind the scenes working for years to defend marriage and to speak out for marriage and the importance of marriage. I think 32 out of 32 states where we have helped put a ballot initiative or some other mechanism in front of the people, we have won that 32 out of 32 times. It seems like when it’s in front of the people they vote for it, if it’s the state-level judges they will try to do it by fiat or if it is simply some other mechanism, the State House passes it without the vote of the people. For the Romney-Ryan ticket, when you look at marriage, what do we need to do in the culture to lift up and strengthen the very core building block of society and that’s family.”
Ryan: “It’s the foundation for society and for family for thousands of years. First of all, Mitt Romney and I – I’ll just say it, it’s worth repeating – we believe marriage is between one man and one woman, that’s number one. Number two, you know where I come from we had one of those amendments in Wisconsin, I was a big supporter of it and we passed it like you say, where it’s put on the ballot it passes. The second point is, President Obama gave up defending the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, I mean, not only is this decision to abandon this law the wrong decision, it passed in a bipartisan manner, it is very troubling because it undermines not only traditional marriage but it contradicts our system of government. It’s not the president’s job to pick and choose which laws he likes. A Romney administration will protect traditional marriage and the rule of law and we will provide the Defense of Marriage Act the proper defense in the courts that it deserves.”

Chick-fil-A says its donations mischaracterized

An Illinois civil rights group said on Sept. 19 that it had confirmation from Chick-fil-A that the company’s foundation would no longer make donations to anti-gay causes – or any political efforts. But the company, in a statement on Sept. 20, said it is not really changing the way it operates.

The Civil Rights Agenda on Sept. 19 released a letter that Chicago Ald. Joe Moreno received from Chick-fil-A’s senior director of real estate. The letter said, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

Chick-fil-A’s summer was full of controversy as its chief officer boasted about the company’s support for high-profile anti-gay organizations and opposition to same-sex marriage.

Just as the Christian right has led boycotts against companies supporting gay marriage – best known is Starbucks – LGBT activists led a boycott against Chick-fil-A.

There also were calls to oust Chick-fil-A restaurants from college campuses and politicians, including Moreno, said new restaurants should not be allowed in their communities.

The Civil Rights Agenda said Chick-fil-A management sent franchisees and stakeholders a memo stating the company will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.”

Also, the company’s “intent is not to engage in political or social debates,” according to TCRA.

Anthony Martinez, of TCRA, said, “I think the most important part of this outcome is that Chick-fil-A has ceased their donations to anti-gay groups in 2011 and going forward. With some of the groups that they were donating to being classified as hate groups, and others actively trying to halt the movement toward full civil rights for LGBT people, Chick-fil-A has taken a big step forward.”

Chick-fil-A, responding to media inquiries Sept. 19, released to NPR a statement similar to the position statement it released as the summer controversy heated up.

And, on Sept. 20, the company issued a statement that said it did want to stay out of political debates but also emphasized that the the restaurants want to be “responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us” and will continue to support causes that “strengthen families and enrich marriages.”

The company said its donations, for months, have been mischaracterized.

The statement said: “A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.”

Focus on the Family lays off more people

The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family announced Sept. 16 that it’s eliminating 49 jobs in the latest of several rounds of layoffs, reports Denver Post.

The Colorado Springs group had a $105 million budget this fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but officials project it will receive donations of only $90 million to $95 million.

The new 7-percent staff reduction brings the group’s total number of employees down to 650, down from a 2002 peak of 1,400 people. In the last few years, Focus has let go almost 500 workers.

The primary mission of Focus on the Family is to oppose LGBT rights. FOF was branded a hate group last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center for perpetuating false stereotypes designed to demonize gays. The group operates a hate radio program that has an estimated two million listeners.

FOF vice president Gary Schneeberger tried to put a positive spin on the latest cutbacks, blaming them on tough economic times instead of reduced support

“God has never promised us a certain budget number. We’re sad today but not distraught about the future,” he said in a statement. “Even in these bad economic times people who care about the ministry gave us more than $90 million. We’ve been able to help tens of thousands of families with their marriages, raising their kids and walking in their faith. Our commitment to that mission is unabated.”

Gay penguin book tops most challenged book list again

“And Tango Makes Three,” a book about two male Chinstrap Penguins hatching and parenting a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo, tops the American Library Association’s “List of the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010.”

The list was released April 11 as part of the ALA’s “State of America’s Libraries Report.”

“Tango” has appeared on the ALA’s most challenged books list for the past five years. It returns to the number one slot after a brief stay at the number two position in 2009.

The ALA says there have been dozens of attempts to remove “And Tango Makes Three” from school and public library shelves. Those seeking to remove the book have described it as “unsuited for age group” and cited “religious viewpoint” and “homosexuality” as reasons for their challenges.

Written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, the 2005 children’s book is based on the true story of penguins Roy and Silo. It follows six years of their lives during which they formed a couple and were given an egg to raise.

“We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families,” co-author Richardson told The New York Times in 2005. “It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.”

But Candi Cushman, education analyst for the anti-gay group Focus on the Family, blasted the book as a “very misleading” attempt “to promote a political agenda to little kids.”

“What they’re not telling kids is that the supposedly gay penguin who is the star of this story later mated with a female penguin in real life,” Cushman said.

Other titles that topped the challenged books list last year include “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.

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Chick-Fil-A tied to anti-gay event, hate groups

Chic-Fil-A has been tied to an anti-gay group that promotes “coming out of homosexuality” and opposes same-sex marriage.

The Georgia-based restaurant chain is listed as a co-sponsor of Pennsylvania Family Institute’s “The Art of Marriage” events, two workshops scheduled to take place in south-central Pennsylvania on Feb. 11-12.

After the gay website GoodAsYou.org posted an ad for the event, subtitled “getting to the heart of God’s design,” Chick-Fil-A denied its corporate sponsorship.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the company wrote: “As our fans, you know we do our best to serve our local communities and one of the way we do that is by providing food to schools, colleges, civic groups, businesses, places of worship, not-for-profit groups, etc. At his discretion, the local (i.e., Pennsylvania) operator agreed to simply provide a limited amount of food. Our Chick-Fil-A operators and their employees try very hard every day to go the extra mile in serving ALL our customers with honor, dignity and respect.”

However, Good As Your reports that Chick-Fil-A “is practically joined at the hip with the entire ‘protect marriage’ movement” through its charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation. The foundation supports the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute, as well as “ex-gay” activists like Alan Chambers.

WinShape also sponsors events for Focus on the Family Institute and the Family Research Council, which are among the most vehemently anti-gay groups in the country. Both have been designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center for spreading outrageous lies about LGBT people that reflect tactics used by Nazis to provoke hatred of Jews.

Change.org sponsored an online petition asking for Chick-Fil-A to drop its sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. So far, nearly 21,000 people have signed.