Christian-right leader Dobson admits defeat in 'culture wars'
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Tuesday April 14, 2009

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Dr. James Dobson, a longtime leader of the Christian-right movement which played key roles in electing Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, appears to have admitted defeat in the so-called culture wars.

"We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict," said Dobson, 72, in a recent speech to Focus on the Family staff. "Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles."

The comments became the subject of a Tuesday morning segment on CNN's American Morning, hosted by Anderson Cooper. Joining Cooper were Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council and Rev. Mel White, a gay man and founder of Soul Force.

Perkins began by noting that the excerpt of Dobson was incomplete.

"He said, 'God is in control and we are not about to give up,' to which there was great applause at Focus on the Family when he made that comment," said Perkins. "...Clearly, you win elections, you win policy battles, and you lose them. This is a long, long battle. I think, as Christians we realize this is not a destination. We're on a journey."

Rev. White countered: "I think fundamentalism has lost the culture wars and a lot of Christians are simply bailing out of fundamentalist churches because they realize they were wrong about gay people, they were wrong about the rights of women and they were wrong about stem cell research. ...Now they're coming around and saying, 'hey, let's focus on what Jesus really believed and that's caring for the poor, caring for the hungry and looking for the widows and orphans."

Dobson's remarks were first carried by UK paper The Telegraph.

"Recent surveys have suggested that the American religious landscape has shifted significantly," the paper reported. "A study by Trinity College in Connecticut found that 11 per cent fewer Americans identify themselves as Christian than 20 years ago. Those stating no religious affiliation or declaring themselves agnostic has risen from 8.2 per cent in 1990 to 15 per cent in 2008."

"A growing legion of disenchanted grassroots believers does not blame liberal opponents for the decline in faith or the failures of the religious Right," the report continued. "Rather, they hold responsible Republicans - particularly Mr Bush - and groups like Focus on the Family that have worked with the party, for courting Christian voters only to betray promises of pursuing the conservative agenda once in office."

This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast Apr. 14, 2009.

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An earlier version of this article incorrectly labeled Dobson a longtime leader of the "moral majority." It has been corrected.

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