Family Research Council

Family Research Council logo

The Family Research Council is one the leading Christian right organizations advocating for “traditional family values” after spinning off from Focus on the Family in the 1990s. The organization has worked on state-sponsored prayer in schools, school vouchers, abstinence-only sex education, and has attacked gay rights and campaigned against gay marriage initiatives. Its former director, Gary Bauer, ran for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2000.

The organization’s mail order operations are run through an office in Holland, Michigan due to the large volume of money that has come from Holland’s Prince family.


The Family Research Council was founded in 1983 by James Dobson and other religious conservative leaders. The organization existed on its own until 1989 when it was folded into Focus on the Family due in part to financial difficulties. At that time, Gary Bauer was put in charge of the organization and under his leadership its prominence increased. This was due in part to Bauer’s efforts to develop a mailing list and his frequent appearances on Dobson’s radio program. In 1992 the Family Research Council separated from Focus on the Family.

During the 1990s, the organization grew to be one of the leading Christian right organizations in Washington DC. Even during the Clinton presidency, the Family Research Council won several victories including the continuing ban on gays in the military, the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and the passage of a $500 per child tax credit (Gilgoff, The Jesus Machine).

After Tony Perkins became president in 2003, the organization made pastor outreach a top priority. Perkins has toured churches across the country while also launching annual conferences designed to introduce pastors to politics and public policy.

President Tony Perkins

The Family Research Council’s current president, Tony Perkins, is a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and is a former Louisiana state legislator. He spearheaded the “covenant marriage” movement in the 1990s. Covenant marriage law attempted to strengthen marriage by setting up an optional license that required premarital counseling and made it more difficult to get a divorce. Around the same time, Perkins also worked to remove sexual orientation from a hate crimes bill in the Louisiana legislature. His efforts failed by one vote, in part motivating him to become involved with Focus on the Family’s Family Policy Councils.

Perkins launched the Louisiana Family Institute in the 1990s. Like other Family Policy Councils, the organization was autonomous from Focus on the Family and was able to set its own agenda. The Louisiana Family Institute passed a law requiring state-level executive departments to include “family impact statements,” developed a Sunday school curriculum for training activists, and instituted Bible as History and Literature classes in schools. Family Policy Councils were able to use Focus on the Family as needed, particularly for fundraising.

West Michigan Connections

  • The Prince family of Holland, and in particular Edgar Prince, have provided critical support for the Family Research Council since its inception.
  • Erik Prince, the Holland-born founder of Blackwater USA, served as an intern at the Family Research Council.
  • In the mid-1990s, the Prince and DeVos families financed the construction of the Family Research Council’s six-story headquarters in downtown Washington DC (Gilgoff, The Jesus Machine).
  • Elsa Prince is on the board of directors.

Connections to the Racist Right

Current director Tony Perkins has past associations with the racist right, addressing a meeting held by the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens in 2002 and purchasing David Duke’s old Ku Klux Klan mailing list in 1996.

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