Gov. Perry: Using Faith as a Political Weapon

by TFN

It is obvious now that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is basing his hopes for re-election next year mostly on winning over the far-right wing of the Republican Party. (That’s the same wing that wrote the 2008 state party platform. You can read that classic example of extremism here.)  If Gov. Perry can win the GOP nomination, he figures he’ll win the general election fairly easily in a Republican-leaning state.

So with an expected challenge for his party’s nomination from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the governor has raced to the extremist fringes. In addition to sharpening his attacks on reproductive rights for women, Gov. Perry has rejected federal aid for the unemployed, revived the racially poisoned “states rights” rhetoric of the segregationist right from the 1950s, and even suggested that Texas could and might one day secede. And this week he’s once again pow-wowing with fundamenalist pastors at a closed-door confab in Austin.

Gov. Perry has been to this well before, appearing as an honored speaker before fundamentalist clergy at numerous Texas Restoration Project events in advance of his 2006 re-election bid. The Restoration Project — funded largely by major Perry donors — has appeared to be little more than an effort to drag churches into partisan politics. This week’s “Pastors Policy Conference” (which will also feature fellow Republican officeholders such as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott) is being hosted by the Texas Pastor Council, part of the U.S. Pastor Council.

Houston Chronicle writer R.G. Ratcliffe has the story here. Ratcliffe notes this excerpt from an Internet posting by U.S. Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch:

Conservative Republicans coined a term for those who claim affiliation with the party but do not adhere to any or most of the platform principles: RINO’s (Republican In Name Only). CINO doesn’t have quite the same ring; however, the application is the same.

Don’t tell us how much someone “loves the Lord” (including the president) if he or she denies “all that I commanded you.” Don’t call yourself a Christian if you are going to deny essential doctrines.

For the rest of us in pulpit and pew, we must reassert those truths FIRST if we want the power of God with us in the battle to rebuild the social, cultural and political foundations of this great nation.

Read Ratcliffe’s full piece here for other important context for this week’s conference. (For one thing, the Texas Pastor Council is refusing to allow the press to attend the event.)

But the central mesage from the governor and Texas Pastor Council this week is clear: they will openly use faith as a weapon to divide voters and bludgeon political opponents in 2010. Their attacks will also come on a broad “culture war” battlefront, and the faith of anyone who opposes them will be considered a fair target.

No one can say they weren’t warned.

Update: Dallas Morning News political writer Wayne Slater is also on the story here.