The Unstoppable Rise Of The American Family Association

Don WildmonDon Wildmon at a 1985 anti-pornography rally in Dallas.

Photo: AP

Donald Wildmon should be mentioned alongside Steve Jobs when talking about the greatest  founders of the past 40 years.Although his organisation was a non-profit, Wildmon’s American Family Association grew at a rate that would cause envy in Silicon Valley. Within years his Christian organisation was a feared adversary of Fortune 500 companies. This weekend the 3.5-million-strong organisation will reach new heights by backing a high-profile Republican presidential rally.

Around the time Jobs was experimenting in his garage, Wildmon was watching TV in Tupelo, Miss. After deciding that few shows were appropriate for young children, the Methodist minister founded the National Federation for Decency (later the AFA). And the rest is history.

Wildmon's first successful protest came in 1978 when his followers forced Sears to drop sponsorship of Charlie's Angels and Three's Company

In 1986, 7-Eleven stopped selling Playboy and Penthouse magazines after a two-year boycott by the Federation

This was in coordination with the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty Federation.

Time reported that the late Bob Guccione, then publisher of Penthouse, responded with: 'Just as I have every constitutional right to publish Penthouse, so you, too, have every right to read it or ignore it.'

But that didn't stop 7-Eleven from taking these magazines out of its 4,500 stores.

In 2005, it launched a three-year boycott against Ford (which ended just in time for auto crisis)

In 2005, the AFA launched a boycott of Ford for advertising in gay magazines. It didn't take long for Ford to pull its Jaguar and Land Rover advertisements, according to the New York Times -- a testament to the power of the AFA base. (Its site, reached 2.2 million people.)

Wildmon said in a statement: 'They've heard our concerns. They are acting on our concerns.'

However, after gay advocacy groups protested, Ford went back to advertising, and AFA continued with its boycott until 2008.

In 2008, it launched a successful boycott against McDonald's Corp., which led to one of its executives stepping down from an LGBT association board

AFA launched its boycott on July 4, 2008, saying it wouldn't support a company with a director on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. After McDonald's director stepped down in October, the company said it would be 'neutral on same-sex marriage or any 'homosexual agenda' as defined by the American Family Association,' and AFA ended its boycott in October.

The same year, it expanded its influence to the UK, by getting Heinz to pull an ad it described as promoting homosexuality

In June 2008, AFA pressured Heinz into pulling a Deli Mayo commercial in the UK featuring two men kissing, reported the Guardian.

Although the commercial never ran in America, Heinz's U.S. headquarters received a flood of email responses from AFA members.

In fact, the AFA has targeted a number of Fortune 500s -- including Target and Procter & Gamble

AFA boycotted Target for using the word 'holiday' instead of 'Christmas' and Procter & Gamble for advertising on 'Will & Grace' and 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,' according to the New York Times.

It also once labled Bed Bath & Beyond as being ''for Christmas,'' and Foot Locker as 'against.''

And it stays active in politics -- during the 2008 presidential elections, the AFA endorsed Mike Huckabee

Wildmon was an early supporter of Huckabee.

'Reverend Wildmon and I share the same values on faith and family, which are key issues for the Republican Party,' Huckabee told the Boston Herald.

When Elena Kagan was up for solicitor general, and later supreme court justice, the AFA and Focus on the Family got involved

The organisations criticised her opposition of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the defence of Marriage Act.

In 2009, AFA threw its support behind the Tea Party

From AFA's website: 'AFA used its formidable Internet presence to promote Tax Day (April 15) TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party rallies in over 1,000 cities across America.'

So far, Home Depot has yet to respond.

AFA includes a history of the boycott on its website.

It's media empire (AFA Radio, Journal and news site) reaches several million people each month

An astounding 3.5 million subscribers get its 'Action Alert' emails, which let followers know when they should complain to companies or public figures for violating moral codes. It also does this through its activist websites, and

And finally, there's it's major broadcast network, with 200 radio stations across the country. Host Bryan Fischer has been called one of the most divisive figures in American media.

AFA has big coffers -- last year it brought in $19 million, and it donates several hundred thousand to promote politicians and legislation

In addition to supporting rallies like Perry's with an estimated $1 million commitment, the AFA, for example, donated $500,000 to support Proposition 8 in California -- twice the amount that Focus on the Family donated.

Leading up to the 2012 elections, it's also given Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty a platform with its AFA Radio network

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