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Vice President Pence coming to Colorado Springs to help Focus on Family celebrate 40th anniversary

By: Steve Rabey, Religion Correspondent
June 13, 2017 Updated: June 13, 2017 at 10:23 am
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Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign fundraiser for Republican candidate for 6th congressional district Karen Handel at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, Friday, June 9, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Vice President Mike Pence will speak at Focus on the Family's 40th anniversary celebration June 23, but concerns about security and capacity have scotched plans to welcome the public.

"At the time we announced plans for the event, we were not anticipating the vice president was going to come," said spokesman Paul Batura. "We regret the change but are honored to host a sitting vice president and man of faith who shares our ideals."

Focus, which started with a 15-minute weekly radio show, shares a long history of cooperation with Pence, who had a radio talk show he described as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf" before he was elected to Congress in 2000.

"We've had a strong relationship with him through the various offices he's held because of his commitment to life," Batura said.

Pence was raised Catholic, attending parochial school and serving as an altar boy. In college, he became involved in evangelical campus ministries, committing his life to Christ in 1978 at Icthus, a Christian music festival in Kentucky, and later joining an evangelical megachurch.

Pence has been a consistent supporter of Focus's pro-family agenda, opposing abortion as well as greater rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Focus on the Family Action, the ministry's lobbying arm, petitioned Democratic members of Congress in 2011 to support then-Sen. Pence's Broadcaster Freedom Act, which a Fox News report said "would ban the FCC from forcing broadcasters to give free airtime to opposing sides on controversial issues."

Focus and its affiliates urged supporters in 2015 to rally around then-Gov. Pence when he took heat for signing Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Focus' CitzenLink publication also told supporters: "People who created the law could use a little encouragement right now."

Pence made history in February by casting the tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for education secretary. It was the first time a vice president cast a deciding vote on a cabinet confirmation. DeVos is a longtime Focus friend and supporter.

Even before Pence committed to speak at the 40th anniversary event, Focus was planning a smaller celebration than it had for its 25th anniversary.

In 1993, about 15,000 people attended the dedication of Focus' new $30 million Briargate campus. That event was briefly interrupted by members of the Lesbian Avengers group.

Focus was founded by James Dobson, who resigned in 2010 to start Family Talk, a competing pro-family ministry. While Focus and CEO Jim Daly do not endorse candidates, Dobson formally endorsed Donald Trump and has had Pence on his Family Talk radio program.

The public still can participate in part of the Focus anniversary celebration: a November cruise to the Bahamas. See www.focuscruise.com.

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