The shocking Josh Duggar story broke last Thursday, when Mark and I left for a long weekend in a mountain cabin. When we returned it was all over the place and perhaps the most interesting (if by “interesting” you mean “vomit-inducing”) reactions to it have come from conservatives defending Josh Duggar (while insisting they are NOT defending Josh Duggar!).
I’m honestly surprised that our local news people, who can usually be counted on to find an “Arizona connection” to any major national story (no matter how tenuous), haven’t seized upon a rather obvious one with Josh Duggar, who resigned quickly from his position as executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of the highly anti-gay and anti-choice Family Research Council.
FRC has deep roots in Arizona right wing politics, as Political Research Associates reported in 2012.
Some of the most important leaders in the conservative movement were on a marriage equality panel at the recent Values Voters Summit. But likely few of the conference participants had even heard of the panelists or the Family Policy Council, the network that makes them greater than the sum of their parts.
Panel moderator Cathi Herrod, president of the Arizona Center for Policy, is worried about the “Four states voting on whether marriage will be redefined in their states.” Herrod said that proponents of marriage equality (no, she didn’t really call them that) “see the fights in these states as the kickoff to reversing the victories in thirty-two states where the voters said ‘yes’ to marriage being defined as between one man and one woman.” She sees any victories by her opponents as potentially a “game changer.”
The four panelists, leaders of the anti-marriage equality forces in states where the issue is on the ballot this year, all head state level “Family Policy Councils” (as does Cathi Herrod). Built into a network of existing and newly created entities by Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council in 1988, these groups have played leading roles in every state level battle over marriage equality. (Cathi Herrod said that the groups are now affiliated with FOF, FRC, and FOF’s current political arm, Citizen Link, where there is a current list of affiliates.)
In the wake of the Reagan revolution, which devolved many areas of public policy development to the states, conservative movement strategists sought to create infrastructure much as they had in Washington. In 1999, I published a study, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State Level Think Tanks,” (pdf) on this and a parallel business-oriented network in The Public Eye. Generally speaking, the Focus on the Family-spawned network has pursued the agenda of the Religious Right, while groups affiliated with the State Policy Network were modeled after the Heritage Foundation, and pursued economic issues.
In 2013 FRC and Alliance Defending Freedom (an Arizona-based legal think tank closely aligned with Herrod’s Center for Arizona Policy) collaborated on a push-poll claiming a majority of Americans siding with religious conservatives on the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Family Research Council (FRC) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) released the results of a commissioned national survey showing that 59 percent of likely voters “oppose the mandate requiring the coverage of preventive care services for women which includes all FDA approved contraceptives, including drugs that can destroy a human embryo, and sterilization services without a direct cost to the patient.”
The poll, conducted by WPA Opinion Research from November 18-20, sought to determine how likely voters feel about Obamacare overall, and their opinion regarding the HHS mandate. WPA noted that “Obamacare has seen its public support drop as the unadvertised consequences of the law have become clear. The mandated coverage of drugs that can destroy a human embryo, are just another instance of this.”
In 2014 Herrod appeared on FRC President Tony Perkins’ radio show to defend SB1062.
The president of a right-wing Arizona group that’s advocating for the state’s gay segregation bill said yesterday that the extremist legislation is simply an expression of the religious freedom that American service members fight to preserve.
Speaking [with] Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on yesterday’s edition of Washington Watch, Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy accused the bill’s opponents of “incredible hostility to religion.”
“Our first freedom, our ability to live out our religious belief as our founders intended, as wars have been fought for our right to live out our religious belief, that is what is very much under attack,” Herrod said, adding that she is shocked that people would oppose the right-to-discriminate bill. “This was non-controversial until the last four or five days.”…
…She told Perkins that listeners should “pray for a miracle and to pray for an intervention” for the governor to sign the legislation.
Josh Duggar is the son of Jim Bob Duggar, a former Arkansas state legislator and US Senate candidate and the patriarch of the TLC network’s popular 19 Kids and Counting reality show. The Duggars aren’t merely entertainers, though. They have thrown a considerable amount of political weight around, with Josh figuring prominently in that.
Besides its millions of viewers, the power of the Duggar name cannot be underestimated, even in Washington. Last summer , conservative lobbying arm Family Research Council recruited the eldest Duggar child, Josh, to move to D.C. with his wife and three kids to become the executive director. As the Reliable Source noted at the time, “In hiring him, the group — known for its vigilantly anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage stances — hopes to appeal to more young people and to tap into the huge popularity of his evangelical clan within flyover America.”
In addition to writing multiple books about their lives, the family members are also popular figures to bring to GOP political rallies. They’re frequent guests on the “Today” show, among other programs.
I’m not interested in Cathi Herrod being asked about this by local reporters in an attempt to get her to defend Josh Duggar as it’s likely she had no knowledge of the allegations against him prior to a few days ago. And she probably wouldn’t be dumb enough (as some of her fellow conservatives have been) to make excuses for his teenage transgressions or (worse) to defend the elder Duggars for hiding Josh’s acts, while continuing to attack LGBT rights by portraying LGBT people as predatory perverts.
Oh no, what I would like to hear is Cathi Herrod having to explain how the rigid rules – on marriage, procreation, gender roles, etc. – that she wants to impose on everyone seem to have failed so spectacularly to protect Josh Duggar’s and his family’s victims. The Duggar clan was supposedly Ground Zero of the safest abstinence-based climate for girls and young women, after all. I’d also like Herrod to explain why so many people who are not Josh Duggar – who apparently should simply be forgiven and allowed to go on with his life because he apologized and repented – and who didn’t even violate other people’s boundaries as Josh Duggar did, must suffer permanent punishment for their “sins”. Such as being gay or being a girl or woman who had non-procreative sex (willingly or not). Herrod would like for gay couples to be denied hospital visitation rights, for women to be denied abortion rights (whatever the circumstances or complications of their pregnancies), and has even gone on record basically declaring cervical cancer to be a just consequence for girls who don’t put it off until marriage.
Cathi Herrod definitely needs to answer some questions about the Duggar situation. Not because of the Duggars. Because of her own history of defending some really awful things.