Dobson used Focus on the Family radio show to broadcast falsehoods about Colorado legislation

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

James Dobson and co-host Bill Maier made false statements about several state legislative measures during their April 18 Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast. Further, Dobson alleged that the bills were passed "quietly, without the people knowing about it" when in fact all were discussed in public hearings.

On the April 18 edition of the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson and co-host Bill Maier issued several falsehoods about measures moving through the Colorado legislature related to adoption, sexual orientation, and sex education. Dobson also bemoaned the "audacity" of the legislature in passing the measures, claiming it did so "quietly, without the people knowing about it." In fact, the legislation Dobson and Maier targeted during the broadcast was discussed during several public hearings and considered by the full House and Senate, and at least two of the four measures also received widespread media coverage.

As the Associated Press reported on April 19, "In a broadcast on Colorado stations, [Dobson] criticized bills that are either close to being sent to [Gov. Bill] Ritter or already on his desk, including Senate Bill 25, which would bar businesses from hiring and firing based on a person's sexual orientation or religion." The AP further noted, "The other bills would ban abstinence-only sex education classes, House Bill 1292, and change the definition of family in the law governing state housing loans, Senate Bill 124."

Dobson misleadingly claimed that SB 25, the Employment Non-discrimination Act, would "mandate the hiring of perceived homosexuals" by businesses "regardless of the beliefs or the values on which those businesses are built." However, he and Maier failed to mention that the measure excludes "religious organizations or associations" from the bill's requirements.

Maier then stated, "So a Christian business owner, here in the state of Colorado, if a homosexual individual comes and applies, they cannot turn them down, regardless of what their business is," apparently implying that "Christian business owners" would avoid hiring gays purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

SB 25, which does add "sexual orientation to the list of characteristics for which a person may not be discriminated against under state laws applying to" employment practices, indeed would apply to private "Christian business owners." But Dobson and Maier omitted that the bill explicitly states:

For purposes of this section, "employer" shall not include any religious organization or association, except for any religious organization or association that is supported in whole or in part by money raised by taxation or public borrowing.

Regarding SB 124, Dobson claimed it "caught Republicans by surprise" because language was "sneaked" into the bill "that changed the definition of the family." Beyond changing the definition of "family" only for state housing loans, SB 124 makes several other revisions to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority Act. For example, in the new version, a "home improvement loan" would not include a loan for a "hot tub, or any other construction not directly improving the structural integrity, general appearance, or living conditions within the housing facility."

Lamenting the "arrogance" of "this little group of Democrats," Dobson also falsely accused the state legislature of "mandating that businesses conform to this requirement without consulting the people of this state."

In fact, the Colorado General Assembly is required to hold public hearings on proposed measures and has held such hearings for the bills that Dobson attacked, as well as votes in the full chambers. Additionally, Senate Republicans voted to approve the amendment to SB 24 that Dobson said Democrats "sneaked" into the bill. Furthermore, both House Bill 1330 (which would allow second-parent adoption) and HB 1292 (which requires "science-based content standards" for the teaching of human sexuality) have received significant media coverage, contradicting Dobson's assertion that the legislature did "these things quietly."

Senate Bill 25 -- The Employment Non-discrimination Act:

  • Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee hearing on January 29, which included testimony by witnesses as well as the sponsor of the bill, who spoke to concerns about religious exemptions
  • Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on April 5
  • In the full Senate on April 17
  • Introduced to House and assigned to the House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, which will hold public hearings

House Bill 1330 -- The Second-parent Adoption of a Child of a Sole Legal Parent Act:

  • House Health and Human Services Committee hearing on March 8, including witness testimony
  • In the full House on March 13 and March 14
  • Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee hearing on April 2, including witness testimony
  • In the full Senate on April 11 and April 12
  • Numerous articles in the media about the measure (here, here, here, here, and here)

Senate Bill 124 -- Revisions to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority Act (the bill Dobson claimed "caught Republicans by surprise"):

  • Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee hearing on March 14, including witness testimony; passed out of the bipartisan committee unanimously (three Republicans and four Democrats)
  • In the full Senate on March 19 (amendment language of "WHETHER OR NOT" added and passed Senate 33-0) and March 20 (passed Senate 33-0)
  • House Local Government Committee hearing on March 22, including witness testimony; passed out of the bipartisan committee unanimously for members who were present -- two Republicans and one Democrat were excused (committee includes five Republicans and six Democrats)
  • In the full House on March 28

House Bill 1292 -- The Adoption of Science-based Content Standards for Instruction Regarding Human Sexuality:

  • House Education Committee hearing on February 22, including witness testimony
  • In full House February 27 and February 28
  • Senate Education Committee hearing on March 29, including witness testimony
  • In full Senate on April 4 and April 5
  • Numerous articles in the media about the measure (here, here, here, here, and here)

Finally, Dobson claimed that HB 1330 "has implications throughout the entire culture having to do with textbooks, and how they're written, and how they're illustrated." In fact, the bill makes no mention of "textbooks."

From the April 18 broadcast of the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast:

DOBSON: The first bill here in Colorado, once it is signed by the governor, will mandate the hiring of perceived homosexuals who apply for jobs in businesses throughout the state, regardless of the beliefs or the values on which those businesses are built.

MAIER: So a Christian business owner, here in the state of Colorado, if a homosexual individual comes and applies, they cannot turn them down, regardless of what their business is. If it's a Christian bookstore, if it's a Christian radio station -- they must hire that person even though their behavior, even though their lifestyle, may be diametrically opposed to the mission of that organization.

DOBSON: And imagine the arrogance of that, with this little group of Democrats, primarily, in the state legislature, mandating that businesses conform to this requirement without consulting the people of this state.

[...]

DOBSON: Second, the legislature is about to pass a bill that will legalize adoption by homosexual couples throughout the state. I mean, this has implications throughout the entire culture having to do with textbooks, and how they're written, and how they're illustrated.

[...]

DOBSON: The third is a move that caught Republicans by surprise, because they had no idea it was coming. It also completely bypassed the public, who don't know it yet; but wording was sneaked into a bill that changed the definition of the family, if you can believe that. Whereas the family was identified previously as being "two or more persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption." Well, the Democrats secretly and quietly added three little words to the legislation. It now reads, "two or more persons whether or not related to blood, marriage, or adoption." It completely reversed the meaning of the family.

MAIER: And that's going to have huge implications in the future when, when judges look at that particular definition here in Colorado.

DOBSON: Of course it will. I mean, the judges are going to reference this definition within the law. And the fourth bill that's on the verge of passing will eliminate, or outlaw, the teaching of abstinence-only education from the state-sponsored school curriculum. It will now be mandated that schools have to teach safe-sex ideology and condom usage in all sex-education programs. I mean, again, the audacity of the legislature to do these things quietly, without the people knowing about it, is just outrageous.

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