The American Family Association, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, is lashing out at its critics. On his radio program Monday, AFA talking head Bryan Fischer claimed that criticism of AFA's extremist rhetoric and its role in organizing Texas Gov. Rick Perry's August prayer event in Houston is actually a hate crime. And he blames gay people specifically. [youtube=] "(What) homosexual activists want to do to me and the AFA is a hate crime. In other words, what you are watching, ladies and gentlemen, you are watching the slow-motion commission of a hate crime. You are watching a hate crime in action. Because the definition of a hate crime is harassment, intimidation that is based by prejudice, motivated by prejudice against somebody's religious beliefs. So this intimidation, this harassment, and remember one of the definitions in a hate crime of harassment is derogatory terminology, derogatory language, so you can see all kinds of epithets that are going to be thrown at us, that meets the definition of a hate crime." So Fischer thinks he and AFA are being "harassed" because of their religious beliefs? We'd like to know which…… Read More

Well, it appears the governor has settled on an answer to critics of his upcoming prayer event. To all of those who object to the sponsorship of the event by a documented hate group, the obvious political overtones and the decision to make the program a Christians-only affair, the message is clear — he isn’t backing off. In fact, he’s doubling down.

On Monday, Eric Bearse, former communications director for Gov. Perry and current spokesperson for the aforementioned hate group the American Family Association, went on the radio and cleared up any remaining doubts about the purpose of this event:

A lot of people want to criticize what we’re doing, as if we’re somehow being exclusive of other faiths. But anyone who comes to this solemn assembly regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that’s what we want to convey, that there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope if people will seek out the living Christ. And that’s the message we want to spread on August 6th.… Read More

TFN isn't the only group organizing a public response to Gov. Perry's Christians-only prayer rally in Houston later this summer. A group of Houston-area clergy are also objecting to the exclusive and politically divisive nature of the event. Earlier this week, they released a letter spelling out their concerns, including these wise words of caution: We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state. Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously. We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing and leading a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin. To these thoughtful and brave clergy who are speaking out for religious liberty, TFN can only say, "Amen. May your tribe increase." Full text of their letter after the jump. (And if any religious leaders in…… Read More

Is the amount of money people give to their church an indicator of how devoted they are to their faith? What if a person has ambitious political goals that include the White House? What if that person is the governor of large state? Namely, what if that person is Rick Perry? Those are all questions being asked in a San Antonio Express-News story published over the weekend that delves into the amount of money Gov. Perry has given to the church during his time in office. Read More

In just four days, nearly 1,600 people have already signed our open letter calling on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to stop associating with a vicious hate group and to make his August prayer event a truly uniting occasion rather than another “culture war” tool for dividing Americans.

Gov. Perry has asked the American Family Association to organize the August 6 event for conservative evangelical Christians at Reliant Stadium in Houston. But the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the AFA as a hate group on par with the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations. In fact, one of the organization’s leading spokesmen is notorious for his incendiary verbal assaults on Muslims and other non-Christians, on gay people and on Native Americans. He also shamelessly uses racially charged rhetoric and has even questioned the Christian faith of President Obama. (See more about the American Family Association here, here and here.)

Join with a growing chorus of voices that are sending a clear message to Gov. Perry: stop associating with hate groups and using faith as a political weapon to divide Americans.

Sign the letter here.Read More