When Ken Connor resigned as president of the conservative Family Research Council (FRC), effective July 14, he cited unspecified "professional and personal reasons." Connor, 56, experienced a life-threatening bout with pancreatitis earlier this year.
Knowledgeable sources told CT Connor resigned in part because of a disagreement with members of the board of directors over the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), but FRC founder James Dobson said there was no ill will and that the disagreement did not cause Connor's resignation.
"Ken has said emphatically that this issue was not the reason he resigned as president of FRC," Dobson told CT in a statement. "Good people often disagree on strategy, but that does not have to mean there is resentment or ill will between them. In this case, there was none of which I am aware."
Connor declined to say whether the FMA played a role in his exit from the organization, based in Washington, D.C. "I don't want to cause division among the brethren," he said.
A constitutional amendment is an expensive long shot that doesn't address the problem of "runaway judges," Connor said. "Some people want to throw all these resources into phone banks, grass roots campaigns, and the like," he told CT. "There have been 1,700 proposed constitutional amendments [in the country's history]. We only have 26 added to the Constitution. That tells you something."
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law in its Lawrence v. Texas decision in June. In response, Dobson's Focus on the Family and other conservative organizations renewed their efforts to get the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment saying that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
"The Federal Marriage Amendment is the only sure way to protect the institution of marriage from being dismantled by gay activists and radical deconstructionist judges," Focus vice president Bill Maier said in a recent press release.
Connor, however, prefers pressuring Congress and the President to appoint better judges. "It is better to get judges who properly use the Constitution and advance more balanced views," he said.
Hat in the ring
Connor said that, at friends' urging, he is considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat of Democratic presidential hopeful Bob Graham. Connor was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor of Florida in 1994.
Connor, a former trial attorney, said he leaves FRC on "solid financial footing" after three years at the helm. FRC's annual revenue fell from $14.6 million in the fiscal year ending September 30, 1998, to $9.7 million as of September 30, 2002. Connor slashed nearly $2 million in costs last year, allowing FRC to report a net gain of $330,000.
Connor succeeded former Reagan administration official Gary Bauer, who now heads his own lobbying organization, American Values. Bauer is now one of several candidates FRC is considering to succeed Connor, sources say.
Bauer sent an unusual fundraising fax on behalf of his former organization on July 18. "I just assume that during a time of transfer of leadership it means that some prudential people may wait to see who will be president of FRC," Bauer told CT. "However, the organization is too valuable for the whole profamily movement for us to sit back and wait."
Tony Carnes is senior news writer for Christianity Today.
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Recent CT coverage of the Federal Marriage Amendment includes:
Marriage in the Dock | Massachusetts case on gay marriage could set off chain reaction. (April 25, 2003)
Christian Conservatives Split on Federal Marriage Amendment | Law would protect marriage from courts, but legislatures could still extend marital benefits to same-sex unions. (June 20, 2002)
Defining Marriage | Conservatives advocate amendment to preserve traditional matrimony (October 1, 2001)