The Responders

by Jose Medina

The last few weeks have been full of news as we saw the extremism turned up to 11 by the supporters of Gov. Rick Perry’s and the American Family Association’s planned prayer and fasting rally Aug. 6 in Houston.

So to give everyone a better picture of the wide range of extremism that is set to meet under the Reliant Stadium roof, and with only one week to go, here’s a round up of what we thus far know about some of the people endorsing and organizing the purportedly apolitical event, The Response.

We’ll update this info and repost if more names are added to the list of organizers or endorses of Gov. Perry’s event.


  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Texas’ longest-serving governor is the biggest single name attached to The Reponse. Gov. Perry announced The Response just as rumors of a potential bid for the presidency began to gain traction, and some expect that he will use The Response to solidify his credentials with social conservatives and that shortly after the Aug. 6 event he will announce a White House run. During his time as governor, Perry has been very adept at using faith as a political tool, more often than not to divide voters for political gain. You can read more about the governor’s history of mixing religion and politics here.
  • The American Family Association: A hate group, pure and simple. Based in Mississippi, the AFA was founded by Don Wildmon and is currently run by his son, Tim Wildmon. The organization advocates for its own rendition of conservative Christian values by mobilizing its membership through action alerts and boycotts of companies that the AFA believes are not promoting Christian ethics. In years past the AFA has called for boycotts of Home Depot, IKEA, WaldenBooks and Kmart, and many others. The AFA also peddles extreme political views and disseminates political rhetoric through its American Family Radio network. The group’s most vicious attacks are reserved for non-Christians, the LGBTQ community and immigrants. AFA and its representatives have called for the forced conversion of non-Christians to Christianity and has laid the blame for many social ills, and even the Holocaust, at the feet of gay people.

Organizers and endorsers

  • Bryan Fischer: Entire books could be written about the hateful, bigoted remarks Fischer makes on a daily basis through American Family Radio and other outlets. And, appallingly, he’s the guy that often serves as the AFA’s spokesperson. Fischer cherry picks stories in the media to make broad claims about individuals he doesn’t like because of their politics or their faith. He has said Muslim countries that refuse to convert to Christianity should be bombed, has blamed the Holocaust on gay people, is in favor of banning the construction of mosques anywhere in the United States and believes the First Amendment to the Constitution should only protect Christians. Recently, he was critical of giving too many medals to U.S. soldiers who heroically save lives and that more of an emphasis should be placed on honoring soldiers for taking lives.
  • David Barton: A self-styled historian, Barton is the epitome of a political activist who uses faith as a political weapon. Founder of the religious-right group WallBuilders and a former vice chair of the Texas Republican Party, Barton has made a career of using distortions, half-truths and cherry picking of fact to craft a narrative of the United States as a nation created by Christians and exclusively for Christians. TFN has much more on Barton here.
  • C. Peter Wagner: A Colorado evangelist, Wagner is in favor of a Christian theocratic government. According to the Dallas Morning News, Wagner also “has advocated burning the statues of Catholic saints and other non-Protestant religious objects, including those of Mormons and American Indians.”
  • John Benefiel: Benefiel, of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, has made news recently for likening national monuments to demonic symbols. In the video below, you can hear Benefiel talk of the Statue of Liberty as a demonic idol. He has also called homosexuality an Illuminati plot to control the global population. [youtube]
  • Mike Bickle: A founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., Bickle has led large congregations. Our friends at Right Wing Watch uncovered video of Bickle railing against former talk show host Oprah Winfrey, calling her the “Harlot Babylon” and pointing to her charity work and support of humanitarian causes as evidence that she is a precursor to the Antichrist. [youtube]
  • Jim Garlow: Garlow is the senior pastor at Skyline church near San Diego. For the 2010 elections, Garlow organized a 40-day period of prayer and fasting (sound familiar?) leading up to election day. He was also an advocate for the passage of California’s Prop. 8, the referendum approved by voters and later overturned by the courts that would ban same-sex marriage in the Golden State. Garlow is unapologetic about mixing politics and religion for electoral gain, aligning himself with presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich.
  • Stephen Broden: Based in Dallas, Broden, the pastor at Fair Park Bible Fellowship, is a former candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives who was defeated in the 2010 election. It was during his congressional run that video surfaced of Broden making numerous politically-charged statements from the pulpit and went as far as advocating for violent uprisings if elections didn’t yield the results he wanted. [youtube]
  • Wayne Hamilton: Hamilton’s involvement with The Response sets off more alarms that the aim of the event is political, contrary to what its organizers have claimed. Hamilton is a former executive director of the Texas Republican Party and has also been involved in organizing the Texas Restoration Project briefings. The briefings have been a frequent site of Gov. Perry speeches and the project has faced accusations that its existence has been merely a part of mobilizing pastors to achieve political goals and for the purpose of getting people like Gov. Perry elected and re-elected.
  • David Lane: Lane is also one of the organizers behind the Texas Restoration Project. Lane is very upfront about the troubling way in which he uses faith:

    “What I do is spiritual. The by-product is political.”

    Lane has close ties to past Republican presidential candidates. He also was involved in the efforts to recall Iowa Supreme Court judges who ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.


Texas Freedom Network

It took years to convince the @TXSBOE to create a Mexican American studies course for the state's public schools. It's great to see school districts offering it to students.