Tim Sisarich with Focus on the Family founder, Dr James Dobson.

There's been some discussion on various blogs about the American fundamentalist Christian organisation Focus on the Family. This has been sparked by the NZ Herald reporting that the New Zealand branch of Focus on the Family has received some $1 million from 'head office' over the past six years.

This also reminded me of something that I wrote something about Focus on the Family in April 2008.

Then I reported that Focus on the Family NZ had distributed four hundred copies of the creationist DVD Privileged Planet to schools throughout the country.

Since the video did not breach the Education Act the Education Department sensibly allowed the video to be distributed but it also stressed that the theory of evolution underpins the science curriculum and schools have a responsibility to teach theories that are subject to accepted scientific scrutiny.

Focus on the Family NZ did the same thing in 2005, when they sent the same video and 'workbook' to 500 New Zealand schools.

The executive director of the Auckland office of Focus on the Family is Tim Sisarich, a former announcer with fundamentalist radio station Radio Rhema. He also occasionally shows up on the fundamentalist TV channel Shine TV.

Sisarich has recently started hosting a Sunday night show on Radio Rhema. The station reguarly broadcasts the radio shows of the American branch of Focus on the Family.

Of the pro-creatonist video, Sisarich said in 2008:

“We’re (Focus on the Family) a Christian organisation so we believe that God made the planet and God made the cosmos … Science takes a theory and tries to establish it as the truth, and that’s all this is.”

Although Sisarich plays down the connections with Focus on the Family in the United States, he has visited their head offices in Colorado Springs on several occasions. He has also met the founder of Focus on the Family, Dr James Dobson.

According to Dobson, 'It is not necessary to beat a child into submission, a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child.'

Second in charge is Sheryl Savill, who is described as Focus on the Family's programme administrator.

It was Savill, along with former MP Larry Baldock, who were the principal organisers of the petition to force a referendum on Sue Bradford's anti-smacking legislation.

Also playing an central role in the campaign to force a referendum was Bob McCoskrie of Family First. McCoskrie turned up on the John Tamihere and Willie Jackson show on Radio Live last week, denouncing the anti-smacking law.

Family First also has close connections to Focus on the Family NZ. McCoskrie was also formerly an announcer on Radio Rhema and is a close friend of Sisarich.

From my April 2008 post:

Family First, like Focus on the Family, has long railed against 'liberal values' and 'liberal culture' and has been actively lobbying the National Party to adopt policies that 'reflect Judeo-Christian values'. McCoskrie's reactionary interpretation of Judeo-Christian values led him to lay a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the hit TV series 'The Simpsons', for 'inappropriate language'. He also described another TV3 series, 'Californication', as 'evil'.

Like Focus on the Family, Family First is, among other things, anti-abortion and anti-gay. It has also consistently attacked the welfare state.

McCoskrie and Family First have also campaigned to have corporal punishment reintroduced into schools.

The campaign against the anti-smacking legislation has been a 'Trojan Horse' designed to allow the Christian right to promote its conservative ideology.

On the Family First board are former All Black Michael Jones and TV1 weather presenter Jim Hickey.

Michael Jones actively campaigned for the National Party at the last election.

Focus on the Family is also supported by More FM radio announcer Simon Barnett. He actively opposed the anti-smacking legislation. In 2007 he described the proposed legislation as a 'home invasion'.

Another supporter of Family First is Christine Rankin. She is a commissioner with the Families Commission

According to Rankin, the anti-smacking law has 'traumatised families'.


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