The 71-year-old evangelical minister, radio host and author is founder of the hydra-headed Focus on the Family organization. With Jerry Falwell dead and Pat Robertson acting more the fool with every passing month, Dobson is the only evangelical of the three who came on the scene during the Reagan administration with the avowed purpose of imposing their dogma on the Republican Party who remains truly influential.
This "emperor of morality," as New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich calls Dobson, probably has done more than anyone to tear down the wall between church and political party, which is to say church and state in an era when the White House and Republican Party have embraced Dobson and his fellow faith-based right wingers with a fake piety.
In this context, Dobson is a serial malcontent who former Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner says has been "crying wolf ever since Moby Dick was a minnow," but believes himself to be enormously influential because he wields great power over his far-flung flock from his home base in
And still has time left over to try to save lost souls like fellow preacher, colleague and Colorado neighbor Ted Haggard from the evils of homosexuality. Until he suddenly finds that he can't help "cure" Haggard of his gayness because it would take years. Meanwhile, we know where Dobson stands on SpongeBob SquarePants, but no word on his view of Republican Senator Larry Craig's toe tapping.
Dobson has been much in the news because of his declaration from the pulpit of the Times op-ed page that he will take his votes elsewhere – possibly to a third party -- if the GOP does not nominate a presidential candidate to his liking. Which is to say a true believer with impeccable pro-life and anti-gay credentials.
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There may be no aspect of Dobson's career where he has wanted and gotten it both ways more than in blurring the lines between his roles as a minister and licensed marriage and family therapist.
Dobson believes that the gay rights movement has "sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family." He depicts gays as amoral, polygamous, disease prone and emotionally troubled. Despite his equivocating when it came to Haggard, he claims that he can "cure" gayness through "reparative therapy."
Such declarations put him at odds with national marriage and family therapy organizations, as well as the American Psychological Association, which states unequivocally in its Diagnostic Statistical Manual that homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder or emotional problem. The APA has not viewed being gay to be an abnormality since 1973.
Despite being totally out of step with his own profession regarding homosexuality, Dobson remains a licensed marriage and family therapist in
Two former members of that state's Board of Marriage and Family Therapists, speaking anonymously, said that Dobson’s dual role is improper and demeans the profession, but the board's hands are tied because of a waiver in state law.
"He can't have it both ways," said one of the former board members of Dobson's dual role as a gay-bashing preacher who claims he can cure homosexuality and a licensed therapist. "Is he dealing with someone as a therapist or as a minister? There has to be a distinction."
Patients treated by therapists "with beliefs rather than nationally accepted principles and standards of diagnoses, prognoses, and treatment can be harmed by the very person they trust to help them," said the other board member.
"We professionals in psychology and psychotherapy are often the ones who have to fix the breakage done by other psychotherapists. A therapist who tells patients that homosexuality is merely an act of will and as such can be subverted or reverted to something else works in the world of beliefs and not the world of professional standards and accepted practices."
The former board members said that the board has received several grievances against Dobson over the years.
Some grievances, they said, were from licensed therapists who objected to Dobson’s dual role and others from former patients who felt that they had been harmed and not helped by his therapies. The former board members said the board could not investigate complaints against Dobson because of the waiver, which states that "religious counseling" does not come under the legal definition of psychotherapy. Dobson himself has used tortured logic in claiming that he is only a religious counselor and therefore beyond the reach of the board.
David Bergman, a spokesman for the American Association For Marriage and Family Therapy, said many association members also are ministers.
"Obviously it is not where our organization is on those issues," he said of Dobson's fire-and-brimstone views about homosexuality. "Those views aren't necessarily consistent with our members. We have lots of (clergy) members who are good, helping people and there is not a conflict based on their dual roles."
Bergman said Dobson dropped his association membership sometime in the last several years, but did not know why.
"A therapist who turns a critical diagnostic issue into one of his or her own beliefs in ways that their professional group does not agree with has to make a hard choice," one of the former board members said. "Are you true to your beliefs or to professional standards? A therapist cannot have it both ways and be faithful to both."
Unless they are the Reverend James Dobson.