Friday, August 5, 2011

NPR Profiles Gov. Perry's Prayer Rally

On Saturday, Gov. Perry, who is widely expected to enter the race for the White House, is hosting a religious revival in Houston to pray for what he calls "a nation in crisis."

Late last year, shortly after he won his third term, Gov. Perry began to envision an event that is now called "The Response."
"With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis, people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God's help," said Perry. "And that's why I'm calling on Americans to pray and fast like Jesus did."

Listen to the Story from NPR Morning Edition (4:24) Correction - The audio and a previous Web version of this story incorrectly identified James Dobson as being "of Focus on the Family." Dobson was the founder of that group but is no longer associated with it and is a Family Talk radio broadcaster.

An event spokesman, who is a former Perry speechwriter, says the daylong affair will be filled with prayer, inspirational messages, Scripture readings and praise music. The event is being held in the 71,000-seat Reliant Stadium, normally used for rodeos and NFL games, but so far only 8,000 people have reportedly registered for the prayer rally.

Perry invited all his fellow governors. The only one to accept was Sam Brownback of Kansas, but he is now backing away. His office says Brownback is "on vacation," and if he goes, "it's at his discretion and on his dime."

While the governor claims it's nothing more than a Christian prayer rally, the event has touched off a holy war among critics.

"I mean, when you talk about the religious right, this is the fringe of the fringe here," says Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based watchdog group that tracks the far right in Texas.

"This is clearly, when you look at it, religious extremism and naked partisan politics," Quinn says. "I think it's one of the most cynical displays of using faith as a political tool we've seen in a long time."

The event is being paid for by the American Family Association, which describes itself as being "on the front lines of America's culture war." The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes the AFA as a hate group because of its fierce anti-gay agenda.

Among prominent religious leaders expected to speak: James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and now a radio broadcaster; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Other participants include:

—John Hagee, a San Antonio evangelist whose endorsement was rejected by John McCain in 2008 because of Hagee’s anti-Catholic statements.

—Mike Bickle, a founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., who’s called Oprah Winfrey a “pastor of the harlot of Babylon.”

—Alice Patterson, founder of Justice at the Gate, in San Antonio, has written that there is “a demonic structure behind the Democratic Party.”

Pictured: John Benefiel's
"Demonic Idol"

—And then there’s John Benefiel, head of the Oklahoma-based Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, who once said this about the Statue of Liberty: “You know where we got it from? French Freemasons. Listen, folks, that is an idol, a demonic idol right there in the middle of New York Harbor.”

Event organizers say: Don't condemn an event before it happens.

"We do need to come together, and pray, and to seek the Lord on behalf of our nation," says Doug Stringer, who runs a Christian world outreach ministry in Houston called Somebody Cares. "If we can do that without being against anything, then I [am] pleased to be a part of it."
Earlier this week, 50 Houston religious leaders, led by the Anti-Defamation League, signed a letter expressing their concern that the Texas governor, and possible presidential candidate, is "sending an official message of religious exclusion" to non-Christian Texans.
A Baptist church will serve as host site to an ecumenical event formed in response to “The Response”—the prayer rally Gov. Rick Perry initiated at Houston's Reliant Stadium.

Americans United for Separation of Church & State and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas are sponsoring the “Family, Faith and Freedom” celebration from 7 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 5 at Mount Ararat Baptist Church, 5801 W. Montgomery Rd., in Houston.

“This event unites us in our conviction that government should have no favorite theology and that it must always strive to ensure that all citizens -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and others -- are full and equal partners in the public square,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United and a featured speaker at the gathering.

Republicans4Freedom: In his upcoming presidential campaign kickoff prayer rally, Governor Rick Perry of Texas is cozying up with leaders of certified hate groups.

That’s right, the GOP Presidential hopeful is in cahoots with organizations listed along-side the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations as hate groups.

I wonder what the national media will say about Rick Perry’s friends over at the American “Family” Association once they discover AFA Spokesman Bryan Fischer and his comments that gays created Hitler and that gays are responsible for the death of six millions Jews? Or his comment that black women “rut like rabbits” to produce welfare babies, that latino women are immoral, and that Native Americans deserved to have their land stolen because of their religious beliefs?

Do we even need to mention his statement last week that the first amendment only applies to Christians? (Jews and Muslims need not apply).

What will the mainstream media say when they look at Perry’s associates a little closer? Will Bryan Fischer be the Jeremiah Wright of the 2012 campaign? What does it say about Rick Perry that he associates with hate groups?

Check out why the American Family Association is listed as a hate group by the SPLC.

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