01/21/2005

Conservative Christian Groups Attack Children's Video

Focus on the Family and the American Family Association, national conservative Christian groups who oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians, recently attacked a video that features characters beloved by children.

The three-minute video was produced by the We Are Family Foundation, an organization founded by music producer Nile Rodgers in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Rogers wrote the 1979 disco hit "We Are Family," sung by Sister Sledge and popular throughout the 1980s.

The conservative groups object to a tolerance pledge on the Foundation's website that includes sexual identity as a difference that should be respected. The pledge was provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which includes it as a "Declaration of Tolerance" in its 101 Tools for Tolerance handbook. The pledge is also posted on the Center's Tolerance.org website.

In November, Rodgers brought popular figures from the world of children's television together and recorded their version of "We Are Family," using more than 100 characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Barney and SpongeBob SquarePants. The video, which promotes the importance of togetherness as embodied in the word "family," will be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools in March.

Focus leader James C. Dobson claims that the video promotes a "pro-homosexual agenda." However, the video does not mention anything about sexual identity, and the Center's pledge is available only through the Foundation's website.

Paul Batura, Dobson's assistant, said Focus on the Family stands by its assertions. "We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," he told The New York Times.

The We Are Family Foundation's mission is similar to goals of the Center's tolerance education programs: celebrating people's common humanity by creating and supporting programs that inspire and educate individuals of all ages about diversity, understanding, respect and multiculturalism.

The brouhaha has created intense media scrutiny, catapulting the "We Are Family" video into the nation's eye and providing publicity that it likely would never have gotten otherwise, said We Are Family Foundation president Nancy Hunt. Its creator, Rodgers, was on this morning's edition of the popular Today Show and is scheduled to appear on several other national television shows.

Read more about the controversy over children's television and the alleged promotion of a "gay agenda" from Working for Change.