Rick Perry's Own Private Alamo
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jun 16, 2011 at 12:06:38 AM EST
No matter what they may call it, when conservative Christian evangelicals stage a prayer meeting/mass rally at a big stadium, if you're gay, you'd be advised to stay away. And that warning goes for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Atheists as well. Despite what organizers may publicly proclaim, these mass rallies praying for Jesus Christ's guidance through hard times, have a tendency to turn towards the dark side for those outside the faith.

And when the initiator of the event is a governor of a big state looking to make national headlines, the main sponsor of the event is the wholly un-cuddlesome and anti-gay American Family Association, branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and key organizers of the event are closely linked to TheCall, Lou Engle's unambiguously anti-gay organization, that's a prescription for a decidedly partisan, and, dare I say it, un-Christian gathering.

Welcome to Rick Perry's "The Response."

'The Response;' -- fasting and praying for America

The key figure spearheading "The Response" is Texas Governor Rick Perry. There is speculation that Perry is considering entering the Republican race for the presidency. He appears to be weighing whether he really wants to do all that it takes to get there; especially the part about subjecting himself and his family to broader media scrutiny.

By taking the lead role in organizing "The Response," Perry is getting all the headlines he may have envisioned, and a whole lot more. "Perry's Day of Fasting for Ballots" was The Austin Chronicle's headline of a Richard Whittaker piece about "The Response."

A recent report by the San Antonio Express-News found that while Perry talks the talk at prayer meetings and Christian right gatherings, he falls short when it comes to walking the walk.

According to the Associated Press, "The Perry family's income tax return shows Perry gave $90 to his church in 2007, a year in which he reported an income of more than $1 million. ... Tax records from 2000, when Perry became governor, through 2009 show he earned $2.68 million and gave $14,243 to churches and religious organizations, about a half percent, the newspaper reported. Perry reported no religious contributions in 2000 and 2009, according to his tax records" (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/7607420.html).

AP reported that "Perry declined an interview for the Express-News story, according to the newspaper. 'He never talks about his faith,' Perry spokesman Mark Miner said. However," AP pointed out, "he addresses faith often in public.

Nevertheless, according to numerous reports, Perry appears to be putting together a team of supporters, talking to potential funders, and sending out feelers to test the waters.

With the field wide open, it would not surprise anyone watching Republicans jockeying for position, that Perry might stand as good a chance as any of them - especially considering that a small number of conservative voters will have the pick of the litter.

As governor, Perry has made national headlines before; according to Think Progress, "while Texas was facing a historic drought and rash of wildfires, Gov. Perry extolled Texans to 'pray for rain,' as he tried to cut funding for the agency battling the wildfires." Perhaps even more memorable was when Perry seriously indicated that the state of Texas might consider seceding from the Union if the federal government kept up its intrusive ways.

Now, Perry is set to host "The Response" on August 6, an event characterized as "a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation." Perry has invited fellow governors to join him at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Thus far only Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has accepted his invitation.

The event, which is free but requires registration - a way to gather data on potential supporters -- has been described by Perry as an "apolitical Christian prayer service" to offer "spiritual solutions to many challenges we face in our communities, states and nation."

At the event's website (http://theresponseusa.com/) Perry's invitation letter to his "Fellow Americans" explains that, "As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and than Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy."

The letter maintains that "Some problems are beyond our power to solve, and according to the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, this historic hour demands a historic response."

'The Response' dominated by the American Family Association

According to its website, "The Response is a non-denominal, apolitical Christian prayer meeting and has adopted the American Family Association statement of faith.
1.    We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
2.    We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3.    We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
4.    We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
5.    We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
6.    We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost;  they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.

We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ."

It is worth noting that the American Family Association has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC calls the AFA "one of the most strident voices spreading malicious anti-LGBT propaganda."

'The Response' leadership team

The event's leadership team is made of time-tested right wing evangelical leaders: Perry, the initiator; Luis & Jill Cataldo, long time "partners in ministry" who are staff members at the Kansas City, Missouri-based International House of Prayer, are the Directors and Program Coordinators; Donald Wildmon, founder and Chairman Emeritus of the American Family Association; Buddy Smith, Executive Vice President of the AFA and American Family Radio, is in charge of accounting and legal matters; David Lane, who "educates and energizes pastors to mobilize their congregations to vote their faith," is Fundraising Director; Wayne Hamilton, "founding partner of San Jacinto Public Affairs" and former senior aide to Congressman Joe Barton, is the Event Coordinator; Randy & Kelsey Bohlender, who "serve as prayer missionaries with the International House of Prayer and on the leadership team of TheCall," are Program Coordinators; Doug Stringer, Founder and President of Turning Point Ministries International and Somebody Cares America/International, is the National; Church and Ministry Mobilization Coordinator; Jim Garlow, "author, communicator, commentator, historian, cultural observer and Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, CA," is involved with National Church Mobilization; Alice Patterson, "the founder of Justice at the Gate in San Antonio, Texas and author of Bridging the Racial and Political Divide, is charged with mobilizing churches in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma; Dave Silker, "a senior leader at the International House of Prayer Missions Base," a board member of TheCall with Lou Engle, and "director of the Elijah Revolution, a national conference and equipping ministry for teenagers," is in charge of mobilizing students; Congressman Bob McEwen, an Ohio legislator is head of Governmental Leader Mobilization; Laura Allred, who "founded 'Captured' in 2004, a ministry for young women, by young women, and [who] ... launched the Back to Life Movement, a pro-life movement fashioned to amplify the young minority female voice," is also working to mobilize students.

The Dallas Voice reported that David Lane "played a major role in last year's recall of three Iowa state Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of [marriage] equality," according to the Human Rights Campaign. "HRC also says the Day of Prayer involves leaders associated with the International House of Prayer and Lou Engle's TheCall, which 'played an active role in supporting anti-gay sentiment in Uganda, where legislation under potential consideration would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death in some circumstances.'"

The HRC also pointed out that earlier this month, Jim Garlow "claimed efforts to advance marriage equality would destroy families in the same way as families who lost a parent on September 11."

Needless to say, the upcoming event has drawn strong criticism "from advocates for the separation of church and state, who say an elected official should not be leading an evangelical Christian revival," the New York Times recently reported. "Gay rights groups are also objecting" to the event since its primary sponsor, the American Family Association, along with other participating conservative Christian groups, "not only oppose gay marriage but also stridently condemn homosexuality."

The New York Times also pointed out that "While the day of prayer will undoubtedly please many evangelicals - a powerful bloc in the Republican Party - it has provoked criticism from other quarters, particularly because of its explicit evangelical Christian theme, which sets it apart from National Prayer Days and other events that normally include all faiths."

According to a People for the American Way press release, a spokesperson for Gov. Perry told the American Family Association's American Family Radio that the event's goal was to of encourage non-Christians to "seek out the living Christ."

"Response" spokesman Eric Bearse, a former director of communications for Perry, told AFR: "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."




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