In case you missed it, over the weekend the Dallas Morning News ran a profile on Liberty Institute, the Dallas-based religious-right outfit that has grown its national profile in recent years by suing schools for alleged First Amendment violations and trying (unsuccessfully) to keep Sarah Palin’s ethics problems from seeing the light of day. The group has long been known in Texas as a promoter of abstinence-only sex education, defender of discriminatory policies against gay and lesbian citizens and a reliable shill for culture warriors on the Texas State Board of Education. (Liberty lobbyists have strongly supported the state board’s controversial and heavily politicized rewrites of science and social studies curriculum standards.)
The Morning News did a good job exposing the bad reputation the group has among many school districts, as an attorney for Greenville ISD pointed out:
“They exist for two reasons: To push a conservative agenda and to gain attorney fees, to make money. Do I think that there is a hidden agenda? Yes.”
But notably absent from the story was the fact that Liberty Institute is actually the Texas affiliate of James Dobson’s right-wing empire Focus on the Family. Just an oversight on the part of the reporter? Probably not. This seems, rather, to be a calculated move by Liberty Institute to distance itself from Dobson’s group — an affiliation it used to embrace. Check out the front page of the Liberty Institute website from back in 2000 (when the group called itself “Free Market Foundation”):
There’s Dobson’s endorsement — with photo! — right on the front page.
Sometime later, Dobson’s grinning face was removed, and the Focus on the Family affiliation was relegated to a short mention in the organization’s “About Us” section, seen here as recently as 2008:
Today all mention of Focus on the Family — or James Dobson — appears to have been systematically scrubbed from the Liberty website. One wonders: why the secrecy? Are they trying to keep crazy uncle Jim hidden away in the closet for fear he will embarrass them? Or is the decision by new leadership at the mothership to turn away from the bruising world of partisan politics in conflict with Liberty’s “culture war” mentality?
One thing we will note — the breakup is merely superficial. While the Liberty staff in Texas were busy last fall erasing Focus from their website, their director was in the nation’s capital, accepting Focus on the Family’s 2009 “Family Champions” award.