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American Family Association
Logo-American Family Association.png
Type Christian right organization
Founded 1977 by Rev. Donald Wildmon
Headquarters United States Tupelo, Mississippi, U.S.
Staff Tim Wildmon, President

The American Family Association (AFA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes conservative Christian values[1][2][3][4] such as traditional marriage, anti-pornography, anti-gay, and pro-life activism,[5] as well as other public policy goals such as deregulation of the oil industry and lobbying against the Employee Free Choice Act.[6] It was founded in 1977 by Rev. Donald Wildmon as the National Federation for Decency and is headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi. Donald Wildmon served as chairman of AFA until he announced his retirement on March 3, 2010. His son, Tim, who is president of AFA, is expected to take over as chairman .[5]

The AFA defines itself as "a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media"[7][8] It pursues its views and other issues through a number of activism efforts, including boycotts, buycotts, Action alert e-mails, publications on the AFA's web sites or in the AFA Journal, broadcasts on American Family Radio, and lobbying.[9] The legal efforts previously promoted by the AFA Center for Law and Policy were eliminated in 2007. Chief among its efforts were the recognition of Christmas in seasonal print advertisements; the criminalization of homosexuality;[10][11][12] lobbying against same-sex marriage, and in opposition of equal-rights and hate-crime legislation that would include sexual orientation and gender identity under categories already protected[13][14][15] and advocating censorship of print and electronic media.[16]

The organization has an annual budget of roughly US$14 million and owns 180 American Family Radio stations in 28 states.[17]



AFA Journal, a monthly publication with a circulation of 180,000[18] containing news, features, columns, and interviews. In addition to the publication, AFA Journal articles are made available online. The AFA Journal reviews and categorizes the content of prime-time television shows. The categories include profanity, sex, violence, homosexuality, substance abuse, "anti-Christian" content, or "political correctness." The categorization is accompanied by short descriptions of the content of the episode under review. The review also lists the advertisers of each show and invites readers to contact the advertisers or television networks to express concern over program content.[19]

American Family Radio (AFR), a network of approximately 200 AFA-owned radio stations broadcasting Christian-oriented programming.[3], the AFA news division web site, provides audio newscasts and a daily digest of news articles, Associated Press stories, and opinion columns. Formerly known as AgapePress, it is the news division of American Family Radio.[20]

Center for Law and Policy, the legal and political arm of the AFA, specialized in First Amendment cases. The Center for Law and Policy lobbied legislative bodies, drafts legislation, and filed religious-discrimination lawsuits on behalf of individuals.[17] The Center was shut down in 2007.


The AFA has a history of activism by organizing its members in boycotts and letter-writing campaigns aimed at promoting socially conservative values in the United States. The AFA has promoted boycotts of a number of television shows, movies, and businesses that have promoted what the group considers indecency, obscenity, or homosexuality. In addition to promoting activism via mail to AFA members, 3.4 million subscribers receive AFA "Action Alerts" via e-mail.[3]


The AFA has boycotted multiple U.S. companies for various reasons, most often relating to Christmas controversies, pornography, support of pro-choice activism, support of violence in entertainment, and support of LGBT activism, including same-sex partner employee benefits. These organizations include: 7-Eleven, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Airlines, American Girl, Blockbuster Video, Burger King, Calvin Klein, Carl's Jr., Clorox, Comcast, Crest, Ford, Hallmark Cards, Kmart, Kraft Foods, S. C. Johnson & Son, Movie Gallery, Microsoft, MTV, Mary Kay, NutriSystem, Old Navy, IKEA, Sears, Pampers, Procter & Gamble, Target, Tide, Walt Disney Company, and PepsiCo. Although the AFA criticizes the People's Republic of China for its persecution of Christians[21][22][23] the AFA has yet to actually move to boycott retailers of Chinese goods. To the contrary, the AFA has urged its members to support retailers such as Wal Mart, which deal mainly in Chinese goods.[24]

In 1986 7-Eleven stopped selling Playboy and Penthouse magazines after a two-year boycott by the AFA.[25]

In 1989 the AFA boycotted WaldenBooks in an attempt to persuade the company to stop selling Playboy and Penthouse magazines. As a result, WaldenBooks launched an advertisement campaign against censorship, asserting First Amendment rights. WaldenBooks, American Booksellers Association, the Council for Periodical Distributors Association, the International Periodical Distributors Association, and Duval Bibb Services launched a lawsuit against the AFA in October 1989, under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Florida State RICO Acts, which protect an organization’s right to conduct business without harassment or threats.[25] The case was later settled by the parties without a court ruling.

Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLeaR-TV), affiliated with the AFA, has approached sponsors of programs that it considered immoral. In 1989, CLeaR-TV successfully persuaded General Mills, Ralston Purina, Domino's Pizza, Mazda, and Noxell to withdraw advertising from Saturday Night Live.[26] AFA also boycotted PepsiCo that year also for supporting Madonna, whose video for "Like a Prayer" Wildmon felt was sacriligeous.[27]

During the summer of 1993 the AFA purchased full-page ads in such periodicals as The New York Times, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times denouncing the sexual and violent content of the upcoming ABC police drama NYPD Blue.[28] It also urged ABC affiliates not to broadcast the program and citizens to boycott sponsors of Blue. About a quarter of the 225 existing ABC stations followed suit, but such affiliates were mostly in rural areas of the US. The AFA campaign increased hype for the show in larger American media markets, and Blue became one of the most popular shows of the 1993-1994 television season.[29] In 1996, the AFA launched a boycott against Walt Disney Company when the company began giving benefits to same-sex employees in domestic partnerships. The AFA has claimed that Michael Eisner, the CEO of The Disney Company, "was involved in a media group that actively promoted the homosexual agenda" and was pushing the "gay agenda." The AFA ended the unsuccessful nine-year boycott in spring 2005 after Eisner left the company.[30][31][32] Tim Wildmon stated "We feel after nine years of boycotting Disney we have made our point."[33]

In 2003 the AFA, with the American Decency Association, Focus on the Family, and Citizens for Community Values, lobbied and boycotted Abercrombie & Fitch, calling on it to stop using pornography in its quarterly catalog. In December 2003, Abercrombie & Fitch announced it would not produce any pornographic images or sexually-themed articles after the release of its 2003 Christmas catalog.[34]

In 2005 the AFA boycotted the company American Girl, seller of dolls and accessories, because the company supported the charity Girls, Inc., which the AFA called "a pro-abortion, pro-lesbian advocacy group."[35]

In Spring 2005 the AFA launched a boycott of Ford for advertising in gay magazines, donating to gay-rights organizations, and sponsoring gay pride celebrations.[30][36][37][38] After meeting with representatives of the group, Ford announced it was curtailing ads in a number of major gay publications, due not by cultural but by "cost-cutting" factors. That statement was contradicted by the AFA, which claimed it had a "good faith agreement" that Ford would cease such ads. Soon afterwards, as a result of a strong outcry from the gay community, Ford backtracked and announced it would continue ads in gay publications, in response to which the AFA denounced Ford for "violating" the agreement, and renewed threats of a boycott.[39] The boycott ended in March 2008.[40]

In 2006 the AFA urged its members to condemn Sears for running commercials on Logo, an LGBT cable channel.[41]

On Independence Day 2008, the AFA announced a boycott of McDonald's[42], which had a director on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. In October 2008, AFA announced the end of its boycott following the declaration to be "neutral on same-sex marriage or any 'homosexual agenda' as defined by the American Family Association" by McDonald's in a memo to franchisees.[43]

On August 25, 2008, the AFA announced their boycott of Hallmark Cards for their decision to start selling same-sex wedding cards.[44]

In December 2008, the AFA issued an "Action Alert" [45] which called for members to protest about the Campbell Soup Company, which had purchased two 2-page advertisements in the December 2008 and January 2009 issues of LGBT magazine The Advocate. The Action Alert included the statement "(Campbell's) ...sent a message that homosexual parents constitute a family and are worthy of support". The advertisements showed a married lesbian couple with their son. AFA spokesman Randy Sharp said "...the Campbell Soup Company is saying 'we approve of homosexual marriage.'"[46]

In November 2009, the AFA called for a boycott against clothing retailer The Gap, Inc., claiming the retailer's holiday television advertising campaign failed to mention Christmas. "Christmas has historically been very good for commerce. But now Gap wants the commerce but no Christmas" wrote an AFA spokesperson.[47] The Gap's advertisement did, however, specifically refer to Christmas.[48]

Published media

On April 16, 2007, following the Virginia Tech Massacre, the AFA released a video titled The Day They Kicked God out of the Schools, in which "God" tells a student that students were killed in schools because God isn't allowed in schools anymore. The video claims that the shootings at Virginia Tech, Columbine, and many other locations, are the result of, among other things, decreased discipline in schools; no prayer in schools; sex out of wedlock; rampant violence in TV, movies, and music; and abortions.[49][50]

Speechless: Silencing the Christians is a 2008 documentary series hosted by Janet Parshall. The documentary series explains the AFA's position against the drive towards political correctness, and how various factors, such as hate crime laws and other discriminatory actions, are threatening the Christians' existence. In 2009, a one-hour special version of the program was produced and aired on commercial television stations, where AFA purchased the air time.[51]

Sexual morality

The AFA has repeatedly lobbied Congress to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.[52] For example, in 2000, the AFA issued a press release condemning the NEA's funding of One of the Guys, a controversial book by Robert Clark Young described by a senior AFA official as "scatological." The complaint from the AFA was that the book included sexually explicit material, in particular, a description of a young woman extracting razor blades from her vagina during a performance in a sex club. In a Washington Post editorial in response to the complaint, Young stated, "I find it strange that an organization that claims to uphold family values and to oppose the federal funding of obscenity is not protesting the part of the military budget that goes to support pederasty in the Far East."[53]

Speaking in defense of Mike Huckabee's comments on the handling of AIDS patients, the head of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania said Huckabee was right that AIDS patients should have been quarantined.[54]

Supposed Anti-Semitic activism

Media Matters has stated the AFA Journal "has long served as a platform for anti-Semitic theories and innuendo."[55]

Wildmon has stated that he believes obscene content on television and in movies is a result of the media being controlled by Jews, who intentionally place anti-Christian messages and activities into their programming to undermine Christianity.[56][57][58] Wildmon further characterizes Jews as more supportive of gays than other Americans.[55]

Media Matters claimed an article in the March 2005 issue of AFA's Journal insinuated that raising children as Jews would lead to criminal lifestyles, and that it required a conversion to Christianity in order to make them productive members of society.[55][59]

Anti-Muslim activism

On November 28, 2006, following the election of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress,[60] the AFA released an "Action Alert." The Action Alert, entitled "A first for America...The Koran replaces the Bible at swearing-in oath: What book will America base its values on, the Bible or the Koran?", requested subscribers write their Congressional representatives and urge them to create a "law making the Bible the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of representatives and senators."[61][62][63]

Congressional prayer activism

On July 13, 2007, a Hindu prayer was conducted in the U.S. Senate. Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple, read the prayer at the invitation of Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who defended his invitation based on the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. AFA sent out an "Action Alert" to its members to e-mail, write letters, or call their Senators to oppose the Hindu prayer, stating it is "seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god."[64][65][66] The "alert" stated that "since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto One Nation Under God."[67]

Gay-related activism

On October 19, 1998, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, led by Leslie Katz, wrote a letter to the AFA in response to an advertisement placed in the San Francisco Chronicle by the AFA regarding homosexuality and Christianity. The letter stated:[68]

Supervisor Leslie Katz denounces your rhetoric against gays, lesbians and transgendered people. What happened to Matthew Shepard is in part due to the message being espoused by your groups that gays and lesbians are not worthy of the most basic equal rights and treatment. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a direct correlation between these acts of discrimination, such as when gays and lesbians are called sinful and when major religious organizations say they can change if they tried, and the horrible crimes committed against gays and lesbians.

During the same time, the City and County of San Francisco passed two resolutions. Resolution No. 234-99 “calls for the Religious Right to take accountability for the impact of their long-standing rhetoric denouncing gays and lesbians, which leads to a climate of mistrust and discrimination that can open the door to horrible crimes such as those committed against Mr. Gaither.[69]” and Resolution No. 873-98 was specifically directed at "anti-gay" television advertisements. AFA unsuccessfully challenged these actions as violating the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment in American Family Association v. City and County of San Francisco.[68]

In March 2004, the AFA filed suit to prevent the city of Seattle, Washington, from recognizing same-sex marriages.

The AFA Center for Law and Policy was closed in 2007.

The AFA expresses public concern over what it refers to as the "homosexual agenda." They claim that the Bible "declares that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful." The AFA actively lobbies against the social acceptance of homosexual behavior ("We oppose the homosexual movement's efforts to convince our society that their behavior is normal").[70] The AFA also actively promotes the idea that homosexuality is a choice and sexual orientation can be changed through religious teachings in ex-gay ministries.[71]

In 1996, responding to a complaint from an AFA member who was participating in an AFA campaign targeting gay journalists, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram transferred a gay editor out of a job that occasionally required him to work with schoolchildren. The AFA targeted the editor due to cartoon strips he created, which were published in gay magazines. The paper apparently acted on the AFA's unsubstantiated statement that the editor was "preoccupied with the subjects of pedophilia and incest."[72]

In 2000, Vice president Tim Wildmon spoke out against gay-straight alliance clubs in schools, stating, "We view these kinds of clubs as an advancement of the homosexual cause."[73]

In 2004, the AFA raised concerns about the movie Shark Tale because the group believed the movie was designed to promote the acceptance of gay rights by children.[3][74]

On the October 11, 2005, AFA broadcast, Tim Wildmon agreed with a caller that cable networks like Animal Planet and HGTV featured "evidence of homosexuality and lesbian people" and added that "you have to watch out for children's programs today as well because they'll slip it in there as well."[75]

In 2007, the AFA spoke out against IKEA for featuring gay families in their television ads.[76]

In June 2008, the AFA protested a Heinz television advertisement, shown in the United Kingdom, which showed two men kissing, which Heinz then withdrew.[77]

In July 2008, the AFA announced a boycott of McDonald's[78], which had a director on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Criticism of Seaworld

In February 2010, after the killer whale Tilikum killed his trainer an AFA blogger criticized Seaworld for not putting the animal down the first time it killed a man in 1991, as the bible recommends all animals that have killed a man should be put down lest they kill again.[79]

Inter-group coordination

The AFA's founder, Don Wildmon, was "instrumental" in initially setting up the Arlington Group, a networking vehicle for social conservatives focusing on gay marriage.[17]

Criticism and controversy

Intellectual freedom

Individuals in the media industry have criticized Donald Wildmon, the founder of AFA. Gene Mater, Senior Vice President of CBS Television, has stated, "We look upon Wildmon's efforts as the greatest frontal assault on intellectual freedom this country has ever faced" and Brandon Tartikoff, former NBC Entertainment President, stated that Wildmon's boycott campaign was "the first step toward a police state."[80]


The AFA has been criticized by a number of organizations for their anti-gay stance.[12][81][82][83][84][85]

In 1998, the popular Internet filtering software CyberPatrol blocked the AFA's web site, classifying it under the category "intolerance," defined as "pictures or text advocating prejudice or discrimination against any race, color, national origin, religion, disability or handicap, gender or sexual orientation..." AFA spokesman Steve Ensley told reporters, "Basically we're being blocked for free speech." CyberPatrol cited quotes from the AFA for meeting its intolerance criteria, which included: "Indifference or neutrality toward the homosexual rights movement will result in society's destruction by allowing civil order to be redefined and by plummeting ourselves, our children, and grandchildren into an age of godlessness"; "A national 'Coming Out of Homosexuality' provides us a means whereby to dispel the lies of the homosexual rights crowd who say they are born that way and cannot change"; and "We want to outlaw public homosexuality...We believe homosexuality is immoral and leads ultimately to personal and social decay."[2][12][84] [86]

In 1998, multiple organizations voiced criticism of a series of AFA sponsored full-page newspaper advertisements that promoted religious ministries involved in the ex-gay movement. In response to the advertisements, the Religious Leadership Roundtable said the ads employed "language of violence and hatred to denounce other people." IntegrityUSA criticized the ads, calling them "evil" disregarding Christian teachings about the "dignity of every human being." DignityUSA also criticized the advertisements, which they said were "misleading and destructive."[87]

In July 2000, the AFA sent out emails and letters calling for openly gay Arizona Republican United States House of Representatives member Jim Kolbe to be barred from speaking at the Republican National Convention.[88] The AFA also said that Kolbe should be arrested when he returned to his home state, as because Kolbe is gay, he was violating an Arizona law that banned sodomy.[89] Equality Mississippi, a statewide LGBT civil rights organization which has voiced opposition and criticism towards the AFA's activism regarding homosexuality, felt that AFA's action was constituting and encouraging violence towards the gay community.[90]

Southern Poverty Law Center, in a 2005 report, stated that the AFA, along with other groups, "help drive the religious right's anti-gay crusade."[91]

In 2005, Equality Mississippi publicly spoke out against the AFA for the use of copyrighted images on the AFA web site in its boycott against Kraft Foods for being a sponsor of the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago. The photographs, which were used without permission, were owned by and retrieved from Equality Mississippi encouraged to file suit against the AFA and offered to support the suit.[92] As of March 2009, the images are still on AFA's web site.[93]

The gay rights movement has campaigned to define "homophobia" as akin to racism or sexism, and including religious objections to homosexuality.[94][95][96] The American Family Association has objected to having their comments on homosexuality included in such a definition.[97]

Former AFA California leader Scott Lively[98][99] is a co-author of The Pink Swastika which claims that many leaders in the German Nazi regime, including Hitler himself, were gay. As a member of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, Lively was ordered to pay $20,000 to a lesbian photojournalist he attacked in a Portland area church,[100][101] and he has since co-founded an anti-gay group called Watchmen on the Walls.

Marilyn Manson

Paul Cambria, lawyer for rock band Marilyn Manson, sent a cease and desist letter to AFA on April 25, 1997 in response to allegations published in the AFA Journal that Manson encouraged audience members to engage in sexual and violent acts in its concerts. AFA Journal relied on testimony by two anonymous teenage concertgoers.[102] Wildmon responded that his organization as a whole was not responsible, but rather the AFA's Gulf Coast chapter in Biloxi, Mississippi.[103]

See also


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Further reading

External links

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