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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With James Dobson

Aired September 18, 2002 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: top Christian conservative Dr. James Dobson.
Is evil on the loose in our world? Can faith and God fight it? After a summer full of innocence abducted and murdered children and a year after 9/11 with terrorists still at large, the founder and president of Focus On The Family is here for the hour. We'll take your calls.

He's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

He's on with us three or four times a year. It's always good to see him. Dr. James Dobson is founder and president of Focus On the Family. That radio program is like everywhere, right? How many stations are you on?

DR. JAMES DOBSON, PRESIDENT, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Well, we're on, I think, 4,000 stations in North America, and then another 3,000 or 4,000 around the world.

KING: There's none left, James. That's it, right? Dr. Dobson, by the way, we sometimes have called him a reverend. He is not a reverend. He is, in fact, a doctor of psychology.

DOBSON: Child development.

KING: Child development and taught at Southern Cal, right?

DOBSON: I did in the School of Medicine there.

KING: Before we get to the headlines of the day and other things, there's a new book out. I haven't read it yet, but I hear it's terrific. It's a discussion between an agnostic and a believer and it's called "Where Was God on 9/11?"

Where was he?

DOBSON: He was right there where he's always been. God permits us to do bad things, evil things and it...

KING: Don't you question that?

DOBSON: No, not at all. No, if He did kind of intervene and prevent us from doing wrong things, we'd be puppets. We'd have no free will. We would not be able to love Him because we love Him. We would have to love Him because we're afraid of Him. And...

KING: But you don't want to be a puppet in just saying, I don't question anything. That's puppetry, too.

DOBSON: Sure, it is.

KING: If I just say everything happens, it happens. I don't question it. That's puppetry.

DOBSON: Well, Larry, I've spent a lifetime trying to figure out what the scripture says and how it applies in my life and what it means. And I don't have all the answers. I may sound like I do, but I don't. But I do know what I believe. And yes, I have remaining questions.

I wrote a book called "When God Doesn't Make Sense" because there are times when you can't figure Him out. I mean, you can think about it for the rest of your life and you can't make it make sense. And in those situations, you just go on believing.

KING: If you believe that heaven is a better place...

DOBSON: Yes.

KING: ... then those people on 9/11 are in a better place. The people saddened are the people left, right?

DOBSON: Yes, if they had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is my theology. It's not enough just to be a good person and then die and go to heaven. There are some conditions and...

KING: So if they were Jewish, they're somewhere not in heaven or -- Muslim, they're not in heaven.

DOBSON: Well, as you know, I'm thankful that I don't have the responsibility to figure that out.

KING: But you believe it?

DOBSON: Well, I believe what the scripture says. And it tells us not to judge one another, leave that up to Him and I do that.

KING: Does it -- does it puzzle you, Dr. Dobson, when you face the fact that the people who did this horrible thing also...

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dr. Dobson. Cleared up our little satellite problem, which rarely happens. But the question we had asked before we were so rudely cut in is those people who took those planes into those buildings were believers.

DOBSON: Yes, they were believers in their concept of God. I'm thankful that I serve a God who doesn't send me to kill innocent people. And I don't really understand a concept of God that would send anybody to do that. There were children involved. You know there were husbands who have pregnant wives. These are horrible things.

I've been reading Lisa Beamer's book of what happened on that plane. She wrote a really great book, "Let's Roll." You've interviewed her a couple of times and I have great respect for her. But she describes what happened on that plane. There's no way that I can see that you can attribute how those people dealt with innocent people on a plane, you know, and call it divinely inspired.

KING: Franklin Graham called Islam a very wicked and evil religion. More recently, he said that Muslim leaders haven't done enough to show their sorrow over 9/11. Do you agree with that?

DOBSON: Well, I certainly agree that many factions within Islam are very, very violent. I mean, how can we deny that? The war against the west and against Israel certainly didn't start with 9/11. For us, it began really in 1979 when the Iranians, you know, invaded the embassy there. And from that point on, they've been doing things like this, so there's a lot of violence within the Islamic faith.

KING: But you don't think the faith is violent? You don't think American Muslims are, by nature, violent, or Muslims are by nature violent or do you?

DOBSON: I think some Muslims are, but certainly...

KING: Well, some Christians are.

DOBSON: Yes, but that...

KING: There's a lot of killing in the name of Christ in history.

DOBSON: Yes, there has been down through the years, but I don't think that's the predominant factor. I mean, if you look at the teachings of Christ, the centerpiece is love. That's been the essence of what He has thought.

KING: Not Mohammed -- Mohammed did not teach love?

DOBSON: Not to that degree, no. There's a lot -- you know I'm not an expert on this subject. I told you that last time we were here, and so I can just give you my impressions about it. And there are very, very violent people within the Islamic faith. There are also some that are not violent.

KING: Does your faith ever waiver?

DOBSON: Well, Larry, I've had a life-long walk with God. I have not lived a perfect life. I wish I could do some things over. But I was three years of age when I knelt and gave my heart to Jesus Christ. And I remember it as though it were yesterday. I walked down an aisle and I knelt at the altar. And I remember asking God to forgive me. I don't know what sins I had committed, but I asked that they be forgiven.

KING: Your parents were believers? DOBSON: My parents were. I was sitting by my mother. I didn't tell anybody. I just stepped out and went to the altar. And it's as though that happened just yesterday, literally. I remember everything about it. I remember sitting out in the car afterward and thinking about what I had done. So I really had a long walk with God.

KING: Why didn't you choose the ministry?

DOBSON: Well, I never felt that God chose me for that. I felt that He called me to something else. You know here I am talking with you on worldwide television about Jesus Christ. Maybe He had just another way to get that message out, but I have never felt that that's what He wanted me to do.

KING: You're an outspoken supporter of Israel. You and Bill Bennett, co-authored an op-ed piece on the subject, responding to a letter from a group of prominent Evangelical Christians who urged George W. Bush to employ an even handed policy toward Israel and Palestine. You don't want an even handed policy?

DOBSON: Well, I do. It depends on what you mean by that. I feel very strongly about Israel. You know it is surrounded by its enemies. And it exists primarily because God has willed it to exist, I think, according to scripture, but also, because America has stood with Israel. If we ever abandon it, it's gone. There are six million Jews in Israel. There are 400 million Muslims around them that hate them and want many of them -- hate them and want to drive them into the sea. And that is a major concern to me. It's the only democracy in the Middle East. Why wouldn't we support them?

KING: And the Palestinian people are the only people without a state...

DOBSON: Yes.

KING: ... of any kind. Should they have a state? Do you agree with the president there? There should be a Palestinian state?

DOBSON: You know, here again, I'm not smart enough to figure out that conflict. That's been going on -- that's ancient. It goes way back. And I'm not sure that I'm -- in fact, I know I don't have the answer for that. But whatever the solution, whether it's a Palestinian state or whatever the answer to it is, it has to involve security for Israel. And that's where I make my stand.

KING: Had another bombing today, another suicide bombing.

DOBSON: That's horrible. For that matter, Larry, how can the peace process really get started when one side is sending teenagers to blow themselves and others up? It's just -- there's no way you can have meaningful talks about anything.

KING: We're going to talk about a lot of topics tonight, including raising children and boys and your attitude toward family. I want to touch some national, international bases with you. What do you make of going into Iraq? Does any part of that question your Christian values about going to war?

DOBSON: No, not at all. It doesn't. No, I -- you know Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, and he is out of the mold of Hitler and Stalin and others. And you can't negotiate with a tyrant. One who is blood thirsty, one who's willing to kill innocent people. You can't do that. And he'll take your shorts if you try. And I think there's only one thing to do, and that's go in there and confront him. I just can't imagine Adolf Hitler negotiating in good faith or Stalin or Pol Pot or any of the other tyrants.

KING: And if the world had moved against them, but there was no U.N.

DOBSON: There was no U.N. and the British tried appeasement, which never works. It just never works. It just encourages a tyrant to be more bloody. And so, I think that we really do need to do what we need to do there.

KING: Now, many conservatives, I don't know if you joined them, have been critical of the U.N. Do you think we should go only with U.N. sanction?

DOBSON: I would certainly like to have U.N. sanctions. I think we need all the allies we can get. But if we can't get that, I think the president has made it clear that he would go alone and I would support that.

KING: Even though it means loss of life?

DOBSON: Yes, yes.

KING: Isn't that the hardest thing?

DOBSON: That's terrible. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

KING: What's been the impact, do you think, of 9/11? How have we changed? Have we changed?

DOBSON: Well, we haven't changed as much as it looked like we did right after 9/11. In fact, America today looks more like 9/10 than it does 9/12. You know, we had this resurgence of patriotism and this renewed religious faith, belief in God. We had these banners up -- United We Stand. The Congress stood on the steps and sang together, both Democrats and Republicans. There was a sense of unity. Most importantly, families began to think about something other than materialism. We've been pretty steeped in it up to that time. And for a while, looking at our kids and looking at one another and talking together and thinking through who we are. We really evaluated all that, but how quickly we forget.

America reminds me in some ways of a kid with a baby rattle. You know it's thinking about that rattle until the next interesting thing comes along and then they drop the rattle. And we thought about 9/11 for a long time. It seems to me now that its impact has lessened and we're the worse for it. KING: Well, we've also had the Enrons and greed and corporate corruption.

DOBSON: Yes.

KING: Right?

DOBSON: Absolutely. And wherever you stick the thermometer into the American culture, you find corruption. And whether it's in corporations, that you just mentioned, or whether it's in certain segments of the Catholic Church, or whether it's in pornography on the Internet or wherever it is, crime, all those things and a million others, you find this wickedness and this corruption. And there is evil in the world.

KING: There are things that are down though. For example, crimes against children are down but they're more magnified now because of all news television, don't you think?

DOBSON: Yes.

KING: I mean Erin Runnion's going to be back on the show tomorrow night. She lost Samantha, but there's less of that statistically.

DOBSON: I'm glad that those cases are getting the publicity that they are, Larry. You know I -- excuse me, -- I grieve over every one of those kids. And we need to focus on them, otherwise they would just come and go and no one would recall. Those are horrible things.

That little Danielle Van Dam was not only murdered and raped, but she was beaten. Who knows what she went through in those hours? And the whole country needs to mourn and grieve when one child is subjected to something like that.

KING: But if the stats say there's less of it, do you think in covering it so much that creates a mood of it?

DOBSON: I think what's creating the mood of it, Larry, is child pornography. If you look -- I think I was on your show when that Van Dam case first broke. And I commented then by saying that when that killer is found, there will be child pornography in his garage or his home or on his Internet. And, as you know, he's now been convicted of possessing child pornography. It's always there. It's like you find ants in your house. We have a place in Palm Springs. There's these little black ants everywhere. Just follow them. You can just go back and follow the line. It'll go back to a nest. And one of the reasons for violence against children is the nest of child pornography.

KING: You're an expert on behavior. What is the interest in child pornography? What is the adult interest in seeing sex performed with children?

DOBSON: Yes, it's a progressive thing. You know I served on the attorney general's Commission on Pornography for 18 months, the most miserable 18 months of my life, and what we observed there is that the addiction to pornography is never stable. It grows. It becomes progressively worse. And so you bore with it, you know. What you saw yesterday is not going to be enough tomorrow and so; it moves you down the road to ever harder and more gross and more violent stuff. Eventually you come to a little fire trail where you've seen everything a man and woman can do together and it becomes boring.

A certain number of people, not everybody, but a certain number of people jump that fire trail and begin working their way through the perversions of -- you know, they call it paraphelias of beast reality and child pornography and homosexual violence and many things. And it -- even there, it moves on down the road, for a few very, very few, thankfully, that come to the end of all that and sit there for a little while and then say, I will try it.

KING: Why was the attorney general's commission the worst time for you?

DOBSON: It's miserable stuff.

KING: And you had to look at it?

DOBSON: Absolutely horrible. We're not talking about soft-core pornography. We're talking about the most gross stuff you could imagine and probably some things that you couldn't imagine. And that's what happens. That's how there's so many people out there interested in children. That wasn't true 50 years ago or 100 years ago. It was -- you know, the media not withstanding, it was just not as common. And it's pornography that has done that.

KING: Dr. James Dobson, a best selling author. His newest is "Bringing up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement For Those Shaping The Next Generation of Men." As he's explained before, it ain't like bringing up girls. We'll be back with more and we'll be taking your phone calls for Dr. Dobson. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KING: ... three boys should understand that -- just that's the nature of this danger?

DOBSON: That's the kind of world we live in today. I mean we know that there are terrorists' cells all around us and that they have designs on us and we do need to pay attention. In fact, the president has told us that we need to be listening. We need to be aware of what's taking place.

KING: Let's go to some calls. We'll be interdispersing questions as well.

Toronto for Dr. James Dobson, hello.

CALLER: Hi, my question, Dr. Dobson, you mentioned early in the show that the people on September the 11th who died, who didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you know, basically didn't go to heaven. Do you honestly believe that people of different faiths other than Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish faiths, are those people when they die all going to hell?

DOBSON: I don't think you heard the second half of my answer, because I was attempting to explain that that would require me to put myself in judgment of everybody around the world. And if you did not conform to my notions, then you're damned. I don't know. So I'm thankful that I don't have to decide that. You know the...

KING: But it's what you believe.

DOBSON: I believe the scripture makes it clear that Jesus Christ came to provide a remedy for sin and to be a savior to those who would believe on His name and that through Him, they would be saved.

KING: So the next step has to believe that you believe they go some place others don't.

DOBSON: Yes, that's the implication of it, yes. That's right.

KING: So the woman is correct in saying that? That's what you believe?

DOBSON: Yes.

KING: You don't know, but it's what you believe.

DOBSON: And I share that believe with about 500 million Christians.

KING: Raleigh, North Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Dr. Dobson, my question to you is with everything going on with the homosexual rights and the movements throughout the U.S., what's your thought on that because they seem to have a very successful lobbying power? And I was wondering what's the aftermath on them, like after death? And I...

KING: OK. Gays.

DOBSON: Yes. Well, they're certainly on a roll. I don't know who, back about 30 years ago, sat in a smoke-filled room somewhere and came up with the philosophy that would sell just about everything they believe and everything they want but it sure has been effective because it is linked to civil rights and it is something that people find easy to understand. And as a result, I mean nearly everything they've fought for is now happening at -- in rapid succession.

KING: But could you have liked the way they were treated 30 years ago?

DOBSON: No.

KING: Ostracized?

DOBSON: No. KING: Hidden?

DOBSON: No, no, Larry. And...

KING: Well, why not come out? Why do you need a smoke-filled room? Fight for your rights.

DOBSON: Yes, because that's not what they're really fighting for. And maybe it is. They've already got that. People are not making fun of homosexuals now.

KING: What do they want?

DOBSON: They want to change the definition of marriage. They want homosexual adoption. They want...

KING: Aren't all those things out of love? They want adoption. They want marriage. Isn't that because they love things?

DOBSON: It's a whole different worldview. When I send my kids off to school, kindergarten, 5 years old, I don't want the school telling that child something that's very different from the morality that I understand. That ought to be my prerogative. Yet here in the State of California, it's been passed and signed by the governor that there's a curriculum that begins for kindergarteners and goes all the way through grade 12.

KING: Which says what?

DOBSON: That is offensive to me.

KING: The curriculum says?

DOBSON: The curriculum is pro-homosexual in many aspects.

KING: It doesn't say be homosexual.

DOBSON: No, it doesn't. It doesn't but it calls for field trips where people who have those views can address the kids, whereas those who hold my perspective are not given an opportunity to do that.

KING: Is it a view to be homosexual or is it a feeling? I mean it...

DOBSON: Yes, I...

KING: I don't know...

DOBSON: I tried to address that in my book, "Bringing up Boys," and I think, frankly, very effectively. It -- but you didn't give me a chance to explain it that day. I said it is not chosen, but it's not genetic. There was one more question I wish you had asked me. If it's not chosen, it's not genetic, where does it come from? And...

KING: I thought I did. I'll ask now. DOBSON: The -- I'm not being critical. The answer is that it usually comes out of early childhood experiences where a boy has an additional responsibility than a girl has. At about 18 months of age, between 18 months and 5 years of age, a boy has to disconnect from his mother, who has been everything to him, and reattach to a male figure, hopefully his father. And that transformation is delicate and it can get sidetracked. It can get distorted. And that's typically what happens where a mother may be very, very possessive of that child. She doesn't want to let him go. She reads rejection of her in the fact that he's moving away. The father may not connect with a particular child. You know if he's not athletic, if he is not masculine, if -- some dads just have a hard time doing that and they reject that child. So what's he going to do? He resorts to the arms of his mother.

KING: But that doesn't make it chosen.

DOBSON: It does not make it chosen. It's much too early to choose.

KING: Right. So why blame them?

DOBSON: I don't blame them.

KING: But wanting the same things you have?

DOBSON: Yes, for wanting to have everybody think the same way they think. That's the problem. If, for example, the definition of marriage changes to conform to what the movement there wants, then it is essentially the end of marriage.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with Dr. James Dobson, author of "Bringing Up Boys," and the founder and president of Focus On the Family.

Samantha Runnion died at the hands of a vicious killer. A trial is going to take place. Her mother, Erin, returns to LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow night.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dr. James Dobson.

Chicago, hello.

CALLER: Dr. Dobson, after the events of September 11 as well as the scandal within the Catholic Church, what are your ideas on getting the nation to embrace faith and religion again and getting people back to their places of worship with some regularity?

DOBSON: Well, I don't know if anyone can try to dictate to the country what they believe or what they want to do. We can just each talk about what we care about. And I've tried to do that. And my whole perspective comes from the brevity of life. You know, we're not going be here very long. And at my stage of life, I know that it's getting short. Whether it's 10 years or 20 years, it's still getting short.

And as I look back, what do I care about most? It isn't the money I made. It's not the books that I wrote. It's not the name of -- my name on corporate headquarters and things of that nature.

It is the people that I loved and the people who loved me and service for God and what he wants us to do.

Everything else is pale by comparison. Until we get to that understanding again, there's going to be a lot of confusion about values in our country.

KING: You've often focused on the family. That's the purpose of your program.

DOBSON: Yes.

KING: It's widely heard. Yet, according to the latest government statistics, 43 percent of all first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. The number of cohabiting partners in the United States is up more than 70 percent in the last decade of the 20th century. And according to 2000 census figures, 33 percent of all births are to unwed women.

Have you failed?

DOBSON: Certainly I've failed, if my goal was to be the sole voice that changes an entire nation. All I can do is try to influence those that I have access to. And I have tried to make a contribution there.

But, yes, we're losing it. There's no question about it. The family is falling apart. It is absolutely falling apart.

KING: Because?

DOBSON: Yes, I think the materialistic way of life, the pace of living, the belief in moral relativism that says there is no right and wrong, there is no good or bad, there's no evil, there's nothing immoral. And people start to believe that and they make up their own rules, and then they get into greater difficulty.

So there are a lot of things that have gone...

KING: Do you see the tide turning back?

DOBSON: Not yet I don't. There was, for one brief shining moment after 9/11. I don't see it now. Maybe it's coming, but I don't site.

KING: Columbus, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. How are you?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: Hi. Dr. Dobson, I know you're heavily affiliated with a group called Promise Keepers that claims women were put on earth to serve man. I was curious, they say women were "gifts from God designed especially for men" is the exact quote. I was wondering what your position is on women in the family.

DOBSON: Well, I think that is a gross misrepresentation of Promise Keepers. If you listen to what they teach, it is designed largely, in addition to the spiritual component, to teach men to love their wives and to respect them and treat them with dignity and meet their needs. You know, that's been the theme of Promise Keepers.

It's certainly what I believe. I have been writing on that subject for many years. My first -- my second book was called "What Wives Wish Their Husband Knew About Women" where I was an apologist for women to men, to their husbands, and trying to explain to them what women's needs are. And everything I've done has been respectful of women, and it will always be so.

KING: The statement that they're put on earth for the pleasure of man is totally wrong, and not the promise of Promise Keepers?

DOBSON: That is certainly my understanding. I am not on the board of Promise Keepers, but I've never heard them say that.

KING: Owen Sound, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hello Larry. Hello Dr. Dobson.

I was wondering, in your experience in times of tragedy, do people question your faith -- their faith, or do they find their faith?

DOBSON: Well, they move in both directions. Some people get angry at God and stay angry the rest of their lives and move away from him. How could a God do this? Other people find solace during times of difficulty, and move closer to their faith.

The purpose of my book, "When God Doesn't Make Sense" is to urge people to hang in there when they can't make the pieces fit because there will be times when the pieces don't fit.

I mean, how in the world do we explain the death of a child? I was on the faculty of USC School of Medicine here in Los Angeles, and the children's hospital here. And I saw those little bald-headed babies that are suffering. They die before they even understand the meaning of life.

I couldn't explain that. And I could become bitter, but that's not the answer because we know God is there and that he cares.

KING: Austin, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Yes?

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: I want to thank Dr. Dobson, first, for all he does to help families. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and I know what the scripture teaches us about our moral behavior, though I have a problem understanding what happens when a Christian man or woman would commit adultery, and what do you think Christian wives can do to keep that from happening in their own family?

DOBSON: Well, your questions tonight -- speaking of you and others -- have kind of tracked the books that I've written. I don't mean to promote my own stuff. But I wrote a book called "Love Must Be Tough" which talks specifically about that situation where you have one person who is behaving irresponsibly and is in a dalliance of one sort or another and the other is the victim and is trying to hang on.

And there are definitely things that that victim can do. The worst thing you can do is grab and hold. The very worst thing you can do is beg and grovel and plead and try to hold it together.

You're better off to move the other direction. And for some reason, that pulls the person back towards you frequently. It happens that way over and over again. But there's a lot of other advice in that book.

KING: We'll be right back with Dr. James Dobson. His newest book is "Bringing Up Boys."

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we get back to calls, Dr. Dobson wanted to comment on the president's dilemma with his judicial nominees.

DOBSON: That is an outrage, Larry, because no other president has been subjected to what George Bush II has been subjected to. If you go back to the Carter years and you just look at the statistics -- because I looked at this today -- for the first two years, to see the number of nominees that were confirmed, Carter got 100 percent, Reagan got 95 percent, Bush I got 96 percent, Clinton got 86 percent and Bush II has gotten 41 percent.

He has been treated in a way that has no precedent.

KING: Since a lot of the same people were in the Congress, has he made some bad appointments? I mean, what's the reason for it?

DOBSON: It's not bad appointments. I mean, the most recent one, Priscilla Owen, was rejected primarily because she issued a ruling that implied that parents should -- had a right to know when their minors, their daughters, had an abortion. And 70 percent of the country believes that.

And, you know, it's just... KING: Do you think it's a gang-up? Do you think it's a...

DOBSON: Well, it's mostly...

KING: It's a plot?

DOBSON: No. Most of those nominations are killed in the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 10-9 because the Democrats have one more vote, and they've blocked them all. They don't even get a hearing.

KING: There are conservative Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, so you have to be implying a plot.

DOBSON: Yes, but they have not voted.

Pickering was a wonderful nominee, and he never got a chance. If those names had just come to the total -- to the floor of the Senate they would have passed, but they don't get a chance.

KING: Cleveland, Ohio for Dr. Dobson, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

DOBSON: Hello there.

CALLER: Hi, I'm waiting to be on with Dr...

KING: You are on. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hi. Dr. Dobson, it's a pleasure to talk to you. I listen to you every day on Christian radio in Cleveland.

And I had a question. OK, I'm a Christian woman, and I've been divorced for five years. And I wanted to know, what is your take on, why are Christian families breaking up? What are families that are supposed to be Christians breaking up? What is your opinion on that?

DOBSON: Well, you know, Christians live in the culture just like everybody else does. And we're influenced by the same forces. We read many of the same books and the same magazines. We watch the same television.

And the culture's like a river. And it only flows in one direction. It doesn't go upstream. And the culture is moving away from stable family life, and it's having an influence on people of all faiths. And I really regret that because everybody suffers when that happens.

And the main thing is that children suffer. It is now documented, I mean, there's no question about the fact that children are -- children of divorce are suffering more five years after than they did at the time of the divorce. KING: Well, is the answer, maybe people shouldn't get married who do get married? Because you're not saying, live together if you don't love each other, or are unhappy -- or are you saying that?

DOBSON: You know, there's a study that was released just in the last two, three months that said that. It was just fascinating, that when people divorce, they tend to be more unhappy afterwards because of things they can't control, including custody battles and financial difficulties and loneliness and a lot of things they can't control.

Those who tough it out and stay with them have a high percentage of possibility of being more happy five years later than they are at the time that they broke up.

KING: Brookline, Massachusetts, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Dr. Dobson, I was just going back to some of your comments before, and I wondered, if science were to find out that homosexuality actually evolved as a result of genetic makeup rather than as a result of early childhood development, would you then be able to accept this lifestyle?

DOBSON: Well, I certainly...

KING: That's a hypothetical.

DOBSON: Yes, I certainly believe in science.

But let me tell you what's wrong with that. If homosexuality were genetic. I mean, just think ability this. If it were genetic, then it would disappear from the gene pool because they don't reproduce as often. So there would gradually be fewer people with homosexuality.

Secondly, where you have identical twins and one twin is homosexual, you would always have the other twin having it, too. But it isn't that way. It's about 50 percent.

And there also are epidemics, if you want to call it that. You know, in ancient Greece or Rome or other places where homosexuality was rampant. If you believe the Bible, Soddom and Gomorrah. And if it were genetic, it would be a constant across time.

I don't have time to go into all of it, but there are many reasons that we know -- the most important one, I suppose, is that even those who come from the homosexual activist community have not been able to find a gay gene. It's not there. And now they are saying they're not going to find one, because it's not there.

KING: We'll be right back with more moments, some more phone calls for Dr. James Dobson.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I would dare say probably no one is heard on more radio stations than Dr. James Dobson.

Wharton, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello Dr. Dobson.

DOBSON: Yes?

CALLER: I'd like to ask you a question. What do you feel is the purpose of public education: To help young people to develop good critical thinking skills, or rather maybe on the other hand to develop good family values to become a good, patriotic American?

DOBSON: Well, you know, I hope that it would not be an either/or situation. I would hate to have to be forced into that dichotomy.

When I was in public schools as a kid, both those things were taught, and they were taught with vigor. Now I think we're not doing either one very well because we have put our emphasis in some states, including California, on a social agenda that's politically correct.

And I have some real problems with that. As a matter of fact, Larry, I said on the Laura Schlesinger show a while back that if I had a child in the public schools in California, I would take him or her out. That's how strongly I feel about the schools here.

Not only-- I'm on a roll. Can I finish?

KING: Yes; I just looked down a second.

DOBSON: Not only because of what is being taught, but because of what's not being taught.

KING: What do you want taught that's not being taught?

DOBSON: The basics. I want kids taught reading, writing...

KING: They're not taught reading and writing?

DOBSON: Not in California very well.

KING: What do you mean by that?

DOBSON: Well, the reading skills, only 17 percent of eighth graders read at a level of proficiency in the state of California. Only 7 percent of black children in the eighth grade read at a level of proficiency. And his Hispanics, it's 8 percent.

It's horrible. We are failing our schools.

And what are we talking about? All kinds of other stuff. Science is absolutely dismal in this state. I think the figure is 17 percent have a science understanding at a level of proficiency.

KING: Stem cell research, Christopher Reeve will be here on Monday night, recently criticized the Bush administration again for blocking a lot of research in this area. DOBSON: Yes. I think he would like maybe to blame the president because he can't walk. But it's not George Bush's responsibility.

KING: Yes, but you wouldn't deny him research that could help him walk?

DOBSON: Oh no, I wouldn't. But, you know, I believe in and support and hope we will fund adult stem cell research, because that's where all the progress has been. In 22 years of research on this subject, there's never been a single demonstrated example of an embryonic stem cell, which always results in death, that has helped anybody. Not Parkinson's, not the injury that he has.

The great promise is in adult stem cells, which can be taken from blood, can be taken from a number of -- from fat, a number of body tissues. And nothing dies.

KING: So Mr. Reeve is wrong?

DOBSON: I think he is. I don't blame him at all for hoping for a miracle cure. And I pray that he will get one -- he and all the other people who are in that tragic situation.

But the answer is not embryonic stem cells.

KING: As you have grown, have you ever -- we all had various -- have you ever had a philosophical change in any area that might be considered liberal? Has anyone ever made a point to you where you would say -- for example, I would remember this, because I moderated debates on it, I'm that old, most conservatives in 1962 opposed Medicare, and Social Security in 1938.

Would you say they were wrong?

DOBSON: Oh, I do say they were wrong.

KING: So you evolved?

DOBSON: Obviously I think a lot of people were absolutely blind to the racism issue at that time. I was too young to be part of it. But looking back on what I read and what I know, Martin Luther King has to be seen as a kind of a hero.

And by the way, he was a minister for those who say that there should be a separation of church and state. You know, he came out of a church and walked the streets of Birmingham.

So, you know, all of that tremendously contentious debate about racism, conservatives were wrong on that, yes.

KING: Are you optimistic or pessimistic?

DOBSON: Well, I see a lot of things that concern me, a lot of things that bother me. But I also see some good things. You know, there are lot of good people in this country who care. I mean, we get 250,000 letters a month from people who see the values that we're talking about and affirm them. I get one negative letter out of every 1,000.

And so there are a lot of people out there who care about the family and about these issues.

KING: It's always good having you on. You always make everybody think.

DOBSON: Oh, thank you Larry. It's a pleasure to be here.

KING: Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Focus On the Family, a leading conservative Christian voice on social and political issues, and the best-selling author. His latest: "Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men."

I'll come back and tell you about tomorrow night right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night Erin Runnion returns to LARRY KING LIVE; her daughter Samantha brutally murdered. She'll be here for the hour, she'll be taking your calls.

"NEWSNIGHT" is next with Aaron Brown in New York.

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