DOBSON RESIGNS…. One of the religious right movement’s most powerful and prominent heavyweights is exiting stage right.

The Associated Press has learned that James Dobson has resigned as chairman of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family.

Jim Daly, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based ministry, said Friday that Dobson will continue to host the organization’s flagship radio program and speak out on moral issues.

The departure of the 72-year-old Dobson as board chairman is part of a succession plan. He founded the group in 1977.

Dobson has had some health problems in recent years, so it was only a matter of time before he transitioned from chairman to retirement. He’d already given up his CEO position several years ago.

Dobson’s far-right legacy is, of course, hard to ignore. While some televangelists like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell became prominent partisans, Dobson was always more comfortable in the role of radical ideologue. Robertson wanted a seat at the table; Dobson wanted to chair the meeting and bark orders to everyone at the table.

Few modern figures on the political scene hate quite as many people, with quite as much intensity, as James Dobson. Gays, minority faiths, the First Amendment, Girl Scouts, SpongeBob Squarepants … if you don’t think, act, or believe as Dobson does, you’re an enemy. (One of my personal favorites is when Dobson insisted that gay marriage “will destroy the Earth.” He wasn’t kidding.)

Dobson’s departure from the Focus on the Family empire he built reinforces the fact that the old guard in the religious right is in need of successors. The fight to fill the vacuum will be interesting to watch.

As for Dobson, his contributions to the discourse and political world have been nothing short of toxic. He’s been a force for division and animosity, cloaked in vaguely theocratic terms.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Jim.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.