Protests have seen the opening of a bookstore run by the anti-LGBTQ + organization Focus on the Family in Holland, Michigan.
The store, Family Central, opened Thursday in downtown Holland, a western Michigan town known for its tulip festival and Hope College, a conservative Christian school. This is just the second bookstore opened by Focus on the Family, a prominent right-wing Christian group; the first is in Colorado Springs, where Focus is located.
âWith the progress we’ve made here in the Netherlands, supporting not only the LGBTQ + community but diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s a little disappointing for the LGBTQ + community as a whole. learning that a group like Focus on the Family is now going to have a much stronger presence here in Holland, âJeffrey Sorenson, director of the LGBTQ + activist group Out on the Lakeshore, told Michigan TV station WOOD.
A small group of protesters, less than a dozen, demonstrated outside the store when it officially opened on Thursday, the station reports. âIf I’m not here to express my voice then I can’t expect someone else to come and defend me,â said one of them, Joe Spaulding. Meanwhile, a line of people waiting to enter the store stretched around the block.
Focus on the Family was founded in 1977 by James Dobson. He views same-sex relationships as a sin and offers resources for supposedly overcoming same-sex attractions, although his website says he does not endorse advice that engages in “shame” or “degradation.” . As for transgender identity, their website says, “Transgender violates God’s purpose.”
“No one has spread the anti-gay gospel as widely or with as much political impact as James Dobson, the former child development professor and spanking enthusiast who founded Focus on the Family (FOF) in 1977 “, according to Southern Poverty. Legal Center website. The SPLC reports numerous anti-LGBTQ + statements on Focus radio broadcasts and Dobson’s Crusade Against Marriage Equality. He left Focus in 2010 but continues to spread his message through the James Dobson Family Institute.
An even more virulent anti-LGBTQ + group, the Family Research Council, was born out of Focus. The FRC was founded by Focus officials in 1983, but the organizations split in 1992 “over concerns. [FRCâs] very political work could threaten the tax-exempt status of Focus, ânotes the SPLC website. The SPLC, which monitors hate groups, does not list Focus as a hate group but does list the FRC.
Several commenters on the Downtown Holland Facebook page noted Focus’s anti-LGBTQ + activity, including support for conversion therapy. Focus CEO Jim Daly, who attended the opening with Duck Dynasty stars Al and Lisa Robertson, claimed much of the reviews were inaccurate. âFor us, when it comes to conversion therapy, we just think that if a person has an unwanted attraction to the same sex, they should be able to go to a counselor and talk to them about it,â he told WOOD. . “This is our simple statement on this issue.”
“Given the makeup of Holland and Holland’s Christian roots and the acceptance of the biblical themes of marriage and parenthood within the constituency of Holland, we think this is a good place to try this out. extension of our library, âhe added.
The Downtown Holland organization has issued a statement stating that its mission is to promote all businesses in the shopping district. âOpening any business on private property in our district does not distract us from this mission, including our commitment to making all community members and visitors to the area feel welcome here. “the group said.
Sorenson sent a message of encouragement to LGBTQ + residents of Holland, who, after much controversy, have added sexual orientation and gender identity to his anti-discrimination order in 2020. âThings are changing in Holland and people are changing. more tolerant, âhe told WOOD. The opening of the bookstore is “disheartening and it feels like a step back, it’s not an end of the game either.” This does not mean that diversity, equity and inclusion are not important in Holland, âhe added.