Religious Right Closes Ranks Behind Perry

by Dan Quinn

New reports of closed-door meetings and conference calls indicate that religious-right kingmakers are coming together in support of a presidential bid by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. One of those closed-door confabs occurred two weeks ago, when Gov. Perry spoke before a virtual “who’s who” of religious-right leaders gathered in the North Texas city of Euless (just outside Dallas), reports.

The organizers of the June conference say the event was “spiritual” in nature, but their rhetoric and actions betray those claims. Indeed, EthicsDaily reports that the June event was preceded by a September gathering  in Dallas that explored a strategy to defeat President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. Texan and longtime conservative evangelical leader James Robison called the group together for both events. From EthicsDaily:

“This nation right now is facing a tremendous crisis, and it’s as though Christians have buried their head in the sand and not recognized that we were placed here on earth to be overseers of what he entrusted to our watchcare,” Southern Baptist evangelist James Robison told as he expressed his hopes for the gathering.

“One of the points that I’ve made that the leaders agree with is that … the vast majority of those who profess faith are uninspired, uninformed and uninvolved,” he added. “With the privilege of choosing our leadership and putting in place those who establish the policies that govern our lives and affect us comes the responsibility to choose right. And correct choices will always be based upon principles that are consistent with biblical truth and the views of our founders – the providential perspective of our founders.”

Tweets from the June event praised Gov. Perry’s speech, noted the religious-political links being forged and commented on the need to get conservative evangelicals to the polls in 2012.

Many of the organizers of these closed-door meetings are also helping Gov. Perry host an August 6 prayer event at Reliant Stadium in Houston. These include the hate group American Family Association, which is 0rganizing and funding the Houston event.

Other religious-right leaders behind the Euless and Dallas events have included Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Richard Lee, pastor and the editor of far-right nationalist project The American Patriot’s Bible; and Jacob Aranza, who as a minister in the 1980s, EthicsDaily reports, “helped popularize the theory that rock ’n’ roll music included backmasked messages promoting drug use and sex.”

TIME magazine is also reporting that religious-right leaders held a conference call in early June to discuss the field of potential Republican presidential candidates and “agreed that Rick Perry would be their preferred candidate if he entered the race.” Participants in the call apparently included Perkins as well as phony historian David Barton of Texas-based WallBuilders and San Antonio pastor John Hagee. Hagee’s record of anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic statements forced 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain to reject his endorsement three years ago.

From the TIME story:

Religious conservatives have often played a substantial role in choosing past Republican nominees, but leaders on the Christian Right have been conspicuously quiet so far in this campaign season. Privately, however, they are enthusiastic about Perry and are encouraging the Texas governor to throw his ten-gallon hat into the ring.

Perry has been doing a lot of praying in the past year. On the morning of his inauguration to a new term as governor, he appeared at a prayer breakfast attended by some Christian Right heavyweights who have been following the Texan’s activities on their behalf. “People flew in from across the country for this,” said one participant. The breakfast was organized by David Lane, an activist from California who has set up “Pastor Policy Briefings” in at least 14 states over the past several years that have been attended by nearly 10,000 pastors. Doug Wead, a conservative historian who is close to the Bush family, described Lane this way on his blog: “Lane is the mysterious, behind the scenes, evangelical kingmaker who stormed into Iowa in 2008 and tilted the whole thing from Romney to Huckabee.”

Lane is the man to have on your team if you want to organize religious conservatives to support your campaign. And he’s the one behind that June conference call in which key players of the Christian Right decided to do just that for Rick Perry.

With all this in mind, how is it possible not to see Gov. Perry’s prayer event in August as little more than a cynical attempt to use faith for political gain? Sign on to an open letter calling on Gov. Perry to end his association with a hate group (the American Family Association) and stop using faith as a political weapon.

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