BENSON | AFA Journal Associate Editor
Like popular TV forensic investigators combing a crime scene for
crucial evidence, political observers continue to autopsy the recent
national elections for clues to explain the outcome.
However, most if not all will overlook the fingerprints
of a new alliance of conservative organizations calling itself the
"Same-sex marriage would not have been such a large issue if
the Arlington Group had not existed," says Dr. Don Wildmon,
founder and chairman of American Family Association, and primary
organizer of the new alliance. "It might have been a minor
issue, but there would have been no coordination of efforts. It
certainly would not have taken hold like it did, and we would not
have gotten 12 new state constitutional amendments protecting traditional
Under Wildmons urging, the coalition first came together in
the fall of 2002. Leaders from ten pro-family religious organizations
met in Arlington, Virginia, to discuss how they might join forces
to resist the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Soon the alliance quickly grew to over 50 official members including
Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Gary Bauer (American Values),
Dr. D. James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries), Charles Colson (Prison
Fellowship), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Bill Bennett
(Empower America), Dr. Franklin Graham (Samaritans Purse),
and many others.
"For the first time, virtually all of the social issues groups
are singing off the same sheet of music," said long-time conservative
activist Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Research and Education
"This has never happened before. From the beginning of the
pro-life movement through the development of the pro-family movement,
everybody did their own thing. But working together we have helped
to reelect the President and added a number of conservative senators."
A unified effort would seem to be common sense, but such an alliance
has never come together in the past. "The moral decline of
the country had become so precipitant," Weyrich explained,
"that many of us sensed that we were about to hang it up as
The possibility of same-sex marriage spreading across the country
was the most important indicator of that decline and the primary
reason that the formation of the coalition has been successful,
Wildmon recalled that while everyone agreed that the threat of legalized
homosexual marriage was the most dire issue, the early meetings
were not without tension.
"Most ministry leaders have assertive personalities, so we
had to work through that. Everyone has come to realize that some
give and take among ourselves is necessary to make progress,"
Wildmon now serves as chairman of the group and moderates the meetings.
Although formal organization is minimum, the alliance has hired
two full-time employees to coordinate the alliances activities
"The Arlington Group was something that was very much needed
and the timing was right." Wildmon said. "The Lord has
blessed the effort and the alliance has become a very good cooperative
vehicle for all of us to address these issues."
movement comes of age
Wildmon said that early in the formation of the Arlington Group
participants agreed that they were not starting a new organization,
but a cooperative alliance.
"We simply agreed to work together on issues on which we could
agree. Each individual organization will continue to pursue their
own areas of interest, but the alliance allows us to fire all our
guns at the same time," Wildmon said.
Such a coordinated effort makes for an effective strategy to promote
a conservative agenda in the nations capital, Weyrich said.
"Any administration is a coalition of interests," he explained.
"The Arlington Group will be competing with others for time
and attention of lawmakers and the President. The net result of
not working together is that lawmakers and the administration pay
little attention. But when we are working together, we are a mighty
force that cant be ignored."
The effectiveness of the group is also attracting an important new
ally conservative African-American organizations.
"The Arlington Group has allowed the pro-family movement to
cross some borders that havent been crossed in the past,"
Wildmon said. "There may have been some distrust in the past
simply because we didnt know one another, but that is beginning
to change since we share the same concerns over many social issues."
According to Wildmon, the Arlington Group does not see itself as
a one-issue organization. However, the passage of a constitutional
amendment that defines marriage as between one woman and one man
is likely to remain the alliances top priority for the foreseeable
"We have decided at this time that same-sex marriage and issues
surrounding it will be the only topics discussed in our main meetings,"
One of those critical tangential issues is the appointment of federal
judges, particularly the Supreme Court. "I predict a huge upcoming
battle, perhaps very soon, over the appointment of Supreme Court
justices," Wildmon said. That appointment is significant to
the Arlington Group and to the issue of same-sex marriage because
if the issue eventually comes before the high court, individual
state constitutional amendments could be overturned.
On another front in the same-sex marriage battle, the group is working
to bring the newly named "Marriage Protection Amendment"
before the Senate and House of Representatives for a vote in 2005.
In 2004 the Senate failed to vote on similar legislation and the
House defeated it. Many of the lawmakers who did not support the
measures will be up for reelection in 2006.
Meanwhile at least 10 more states are expected to bring state constitutional
amendments to voters, most in 2006. The Arlington Group is committed
to the passage of these state amendments that would protect traditional
"The Arlington Group has brought together all the pro-family
groups to strategize and become more effective in bringing about
change in the nation," Wildmon summarized. "We should
have been doing this 30 years ago."