Gov. Perry’s Cynical Call to Prayer

by Dan Quinn

Since the day Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that he had invited the nation’s governors to Houston to pray for America (so far only two have indicated that they will come), the signs have pointed to yet another cynical attempt to use faith as a political weapon. On Monday Gov. Perry essentially confirmed that assumption. His gubernatorial campaign office blasted out an email to supporters and other political activists, calling them to the Houston event.

“I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation,” Gov. Perry wrote. “There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”

That’s a wonderful message for people of faith — but its delivery through an electoral campaign office by a politician apparently preparing for a presidential run reveals it as little more than a cold and calculating political tactic.

In fact, later on Monday the hate group that Gov. Perry has asked to organize the event, the American Family Association, called the Houston gathering “apolitical” in its own email to religious-right activists: “This is not a political event. It is a prayer event. No candidate will speak.” No candidate will speak? Does this mean Gov. Perry has decided not to run for president? Someone should alert the news media about that revelation.

Actually, here’s a truly revealing part of AFA’s email: the group suggests that people who can’t attend the Houston event hold one in their local church — but register first with AFA.

Now why would AFA want people to register with a political organization simply to hold an event in their church to pray for our nation? Anyone who knows how campaigns work can answer that: such a list is a gold mine for an electoral campaign building a databank of names to contact for political purposes.

Just as with the Texas Restoration Project’s so-called “pastor policy briefings” around the state in 2005, Gov. Perry’s Houston event is little more than a cynical effort to turn people of faith and their houses of worship into parts of a partisan election campaign. “Not a political event”? Who do they really think they’re fooling?

You can sign on to an open letter calling on Gov. Perry to stop associating with a hate group and using faith as a political weapon.