American Renewal Project
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Wed Aug 26, 2015 at 10:17:10 AM EST
On my journey to the American Renewal Project in Austin, Texas, I listened to hard right talk radio out of Houston.  There was an ad about Christian Reconstruction leader, Dr. Steven Hotze, hosting a new natural health remedy program with Houston Second Baptist Pastor Ed Young.  The ad helped set the tone for the event.    The meeting was provided free of charge for interested pastors and other activists.  Each participant received a free two nights in a five star hotel along with free banquets.
     My first contact was with the Texas Values booth.  David Walls was the leader who helped secure passage of a bill in Texas to protect ministers from being forced to preform gay marriages.  David was also involved in a movement to secure tax money for private Christian academies.
     Bob McEwen, former U.S. Congressman, announced to the crowd of nearly 1,000 that only 2% of the population has hijacked America from Christians.  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is under indictment, was praised.  Texas Governor Gregg Abbott was the first featured speaker.  He reminded the audience of mostly pastors that there is a rising tide of hostility against religion threatening all of us.  He suggested pastors need to pass out voter guides in the church to help elect better leaders.  To guard against the loss of religious liberty he boasted he was the one as Attorney General who kept the Ten Commandment Monument on the lawn at the state capital.  He also assured the crowd he protected the Kountze, Texas public school cheerleaders and saved them from persecution.  Prayers kept the pep squad from oppression.  Kountze was the famous town story where cheerleaders posted Bible verses on the football stadium.  Religious liberty groups said this was not legal. Abbott sided with the girls instead of court rulings.  He assured the crowd Texas leads the U.S. in protecting religious liberty.
     William Federer was up next.  Federer is noted for some Islomaphobhic tapes and books he has authored.  He said there are two types of preachers.  The bad types are the ones who teach separation of church and state and thus teach the congregation not to get involved.  True pastors are not like this.  He noted that if gays have their way they will control all pulpits.  It is our time, he stated, to raise up leaders.  Tuesday afternoon will be devoted to getting pastors to run for office.
      Senator Ted Cruz was next on tape telling the crowd he is proud of his father for going to prison and was Ted's hero.  Ted's father, who went to prison in Cuba for being a Communist, would be featured next.  Cruz's dad, Rafael, said the foundation of everything is Jesus Christ.  He proposed many churches are secular humanists.  Social justice is another word for collectivism.  A projector placed a banner before the crowd on the two screens.  The banner stated that all of our problems stem from the separation of church and state.  This seemed to be a major theme.  Cruz Senior said the Danbury letter, used in history to defend separation of church and state in America, means that the wall is only one way.  That is, the wall of separation was set up to protect the church from government intervention, not vice versa.  (First Amendment scholars disagree with his conclusion.)     The ex-Communist next told us that in 1962, prayer was banned from public schools.  In 1963, the Bible was banned.  He said that Homosexual pastors can now come to your church and if you refuse to hire them you will be sued for Civil Rights violation.  He next listed what he said were several lies from Democratic candidates.  He gave his civics opinion on the American system of government.  He proposed the Biblical version of government is local control, not Federal.   He went on to state that the majority of pastors hide behind the pulpit scared to death of losing their tax exempt status.
     Pastor Ken Graves was featured throughout the meeting.  He often used illustrations of battle and warfare.  He stated the new understanding of church and state causes us to abandon the war.  Boys are born to dream of war.  Girls are not like this.  Being a macho man is the birth right of males.  He preaches with a Bible holder on his left hip and a 45 caliber pistol wedged in his back belt.  He proclaimed in a billowing voice that ministers settle for income, but we were created for war.  Next up Bishop Jackson said we needed to fight till Jesus comes.    It was obvious the virility of pastors was challenged if they were not fighting this political battle.  
     Cowboy pastor Dick Sisk carried on the manly advice.   He said preachers need to "take off the kid gloves."  He admitted that he preached better after "he puked."  His wife said this was a sign he had a good sermon.  He used cowboy illustrations to drive home his points.  
       Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee was the last orator.  He boasted he knows the prime Minister of Israel personally.  He compared him to Winston Churchill.  This friendship helped Mike to better understand the recent treaty with Iran.  Huckabee said the Iran deal is phony.  It places the world in great harm according to the candidate.  He said we finance Iran's military strength and Iran can then use this military weaponry against us.  He noted through this treaty America is under contract to attack Israel instead of Iran in case of an Iranian attack on Israel.  Mike noted our nation punished productive people and rewards slackers.  We need to scrap the IRS  and the current tax code.  He wants to replace this with a flat tax.  There will be no income tax in his administration if he is elected.
     Religious Right historian David Barton added a new high to the fear mongering at the event.  One of the underling themes of the meeting was the "what might happen" factor.  There was little justification for the warnings.  I spoke with religious liberty experts who assured me there wasn't any push by anyone to force churches to hire gay pastors.  Churches did not operate under the same guidelines as a business.  Barton stated that if a pedophile wanted to be hired by a church to work with children, the church could be sued if they did not hire him.  I asked Barton in the hallway if he really meant this.  He assured me there were already court cases of pedophiles seeking to be hired in churches to work with children.  
     I spoke with several participants who sat there listening to these things.  The ones I spoke to did not find the pedophile story outlandish.  As in recent visits to these types of meetings, I have noted a common willingness to believe statements, no matter how outlandish.  Barton has stated before that ministers who read from the book of Romans from the pulpit can now be arrested by the Federal Government.  I spoke with a man who monitors these types of movements.  He noted that fear seems to be one of the driving forces behind these types.  Tapping into these fears has become a cottage industry in the Lone Star State.

Are the attendees' travel costs covered as well? I wonder what their congregations make of their pastors going to a free political conference at a fancy hotel? In the real world, patients would be likely to frown on their doctors attending free dinners sponsored by drug reps and then prescribing the expensive drug to the patients. Or are the congregants happy to farm themselves and their pastor out to the politicians? Or maybe - free vacation for the pastor that we, the congregation, don't have to pay for.

by NancyP on Wed Aug 26, 2015 at 11:03:43 AM EST

We had to pay for parking.  Transportation to and from were not covered.  Some brought their wives and pets to the meeting......all paid for.  The sponsors expect to get some bang for the bucks.  Troops were expected to rally support for the causes.  

by wilkyjr on Wed Aug 26, 2015 at 12:38:22 PM EST
I can't imagine that the pastors are able to go and not have their congregations find out. In the non-evangelical world, congregants often get annoyed if they are pressed into political allegiance - every time a Catholic bishop issues a mandatory political message to be read from the pulpits, a few more Catholics tune out the bishops. Are a significant percentage of evangelicals glad that their pastors are hobnobbing with national political celebrities and are planning to involve the congregation in national-level politics rather than the local issues (schools, homeless shelters, etc)?

by NancyP on Wed Aug 26, 2015 at 09:50:47 PM EST

In my region a few, maybe now only a couple, would be disappointed in me for pushing this agenda.  A much larger crowd would encourage me to get behind this project to restore America.  I have had recent conflict with some who are in this Barton camp and left the church.  It would be easy to take folks to this meeting and get them fired up by what was communicated.  The speakers claimed people like me are the cowards for being afraid to speak up to the secular state.  I find the opposite to be true.  Believing in the separation of church and state is no feather in anyone's hat in Texas now......except for a few rare churches.  

by wilkyjr on Thu Aug 27, 2015 at 10:28:47 AM EST

I could comment on everything in this article (and thank you for going to spare the rest of us the horror!), but I'm just going to focus on the whole "must hire" fear. Even in the United Church of Christ, the first Christian denomination to ordain an openly gay man to ministry and one that proclaims itself "Open and Affirming" of all people, entire associations are not required to authorize LGBT folk for ministry, never mind congregations required to hire an openly LGBT pastor. Some associations have been very slow to accept the ministry of all people (I'm not even sure my own association would fully endorse an LGBT candidate, though there would be much more positive conversation than there would have been 9 years ago when I arrived). This whole "bull puckey" about forced hirings is so far beyond the pale of truth that I wonder how the purveyors of this propaganda can look themselves in the eyes when they shave every morning. There's something about not bearing false witness coming to mind...

by RevRuthUCC on Sun Aug 30, 2015 at 03:04:25 PM EST

The latest publication of Report from the Capital, deals with these issues.  It points out that the court even penned a defense for churches choosing not to preform gay marriages.  see for more information.

by wilkyjr on Thu Sep 03, 2015 at 02:22:42 PM EST

YouTube has Barton claiming he played on the record setting ORU basketball team in the mid seventies. No one has come up with any proof he was on the team.  You can see the roosters and team picture on line. In person he is about as large as my 5th grade granddaughter.  His description of team practices appears absurd that colleges would undergo a 5 mile run before each practice. Is this another lie?  

by wilkyjr on Thu Sep 03, 2015 at 02:43:02 PM EST

The project further the now decades-long endeavor to engage evangelicals in electoral politics. It has organized events of a similar nature in Iowa, Missouri, word wipe South Carolina, and Texas. It aims to elect pastors to public office.

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