Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (speaking in a recorded message) and his father Rafael warned about religious persecution, homosexual domination of pulpits, and churches forced to hire pedophiles at a gather of about 1,000 pastors and their spouses in Austin this week, according to one of the attendees of the Texas Renewal Project event.

The Texas Renewal Project — launched in 2005 as the Texas Restoration Project — provides free lodging and meals for attendees who come to listen to select politicians and religious-right leaders demand that Christians assert control over American government. (Not just any Christians, mind you. They’re talking about fundamentalist Christians with a particular right-wing political view.) The funding source is unknown, but major campaign donors to then-Gov. Rick Perry paid for the six events in 2005. All of those events featured speeches by Perry in the run-up to his re-election race the next year.

In addition to Abbott and the Cruzes, this week’s event featured former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee and Ted Cruz are both seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016. David Barton, the phony historian and head of Texas-based WallBuilders, was among the religious-right leaders who spoke.

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The Texas Renewal Project event scheduled for later this month will have another notable speaker: Gov. Greg Abbott.

We already wrote about this event, but the addition of the state’s top elected official appears to be new, according to an email invitation that went out late last week.

Abbott will join former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, at a hotel in Austin for a “pastors briefing” designed to turn clergy into politicians.

To gain a little more insight on what these Renewal Project trainings are all about, and why you should care about the politicization of congregations, take a look at how the chief organizer of the trainings, David Lane, opened a similar training in Charleston, S.C., earlier this year:

“Fifty-five million babies dead. Red ink as far as the eye can see. Homosexuals praying at the inauguration. … Lord, have mercy.”

Yeah, heaven forbid that a gay person would have the audacity to pray. Lane added this in an interview:

“My No. 1 ask is, can you register 100 percent in your pews? No. 2, can you preach biblical values and make sure people connect the dots? They don’t… Read More

The Texas Renewal Project, part of a web of state-based organizations designed to drag churches into partisan politics, has a new project for turning pastors into politicians.

On Wednesday we saw an email invitation asking pastors to attend an event on August 24-25 at the downtown Hilton Hotel in Austin. The two-day gathering will feature prominent religious-right speakers, including presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, as well as a session called “The Men and Women of Issachar Training.”

Journalist Sarah Posner has written about how these trainings, named after a biblical figure from the Book of Genesis, are designed to teach pastors how to be politicians. Posner tells about how David Lane, the primary organizer for Renewal Project events around the country, explained the purpose to reporter David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network:

The training was held in Baton Rouge the day before The Response, the Christian prayer rally organized by the American Family Association and Lane’s American Renewal Project, and promoted by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. According to the Christian Examiner, Jindal wrote a letter promoting the training as well. “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old… Read More

David Barton wasn’t the only prominent speaker (see here, here and here) at the Texas Renewal Project event on April 3-4 in Austin. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, were among the list of right-wing evangelical speakers at the gathering of hundreds of pastors and their spouses.

Huckabee has been a regular speaker at many Renewal Project events around the country. Mixing in a variety of jokes during his talk in Austin, Huckabee still focused on abortion and same-sex marriage. For example, Huckabee suggested that women who get abortions are “probably” pressured into doing so:

“I do suggest that you always remind the people in your church that in every abortion there are two victims. One is the baby, and one is most often that birth mother who probably was pressured into the decision by a mother, a grandmother, a boyfriend, or by a husband.”

Huckabee also criticized judges who rule in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples:

“We have allowed people in black robes, unelected in most cases, unaccountable for their decisions, to overturn not only the will of… Read More

During his talks at the Texas Renewal Project on April 3-4 in Austin, David Barton didn’t just mislead hundreds of pastors and their spouses about San Antonio’s new nondiscrimination ordinance or use the Bible to justify right-wing policies on taxation. He also repeated a favorite falsehood of the religious right about the U.S. military supposedly censoring Christian pastors. Barton told the pastors in Austin audience that military chaplains “can’t mention Jesus in a prayer”:

“The last two years the biggest debate has been over the rights of conscience. You see, two years ago when we did this… the issue was chaplains are being told, ‘You cannot use the word Jesus when you pray. We’ll tell you what words to pray, and you can’t use the word Jesus.’ Wait a minute. We’ve got chaplains for all faiths. We’ve got military chaplains that are Hindus, that are Buddhists, that are Muslims… Because whatever soldiers there want to be [garbled] according to their faith. About 88 percent of American soldiers are Christians, so 88 percent of our chaplains tend to be Christians, and that’s what they minister to. So you got Christian folks come to a Christian chaplain and have Christian chaplains who… Read More