Archive for the ‘Rick Perry’ Category

Poll Respondents: WHAT War on Religion?

March 16, 2012

The religious right insists that faith is under siege in America. Far-right leaders and pressure groups have pushed the “war on religion” trope for years now. Texas Gov. Rick Perry even used it during his doomed presidential campaign last December. Most recently, the right has argued that the Obama administration’s policy on insurance coverage for contraception is part of this mythical “war.”

But a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that most Americans aren’t buying it. According to that poll, Americans by a 56%-39% margin say they don’t think religious liberty is under threat in America today. Of those who do believe religious freedom is threatened, only 6 percent mentioned the current debate over health insurance coverage for birth control. Others mentioned “hostility towards Christians/religion” (10 percent), “removing religion from the public square” (23 percent) and “general government interference in religion” (20 percent).

David Barton, president of Texas-based WallBuilders, plays especially on such fears. You can see that in Barton’s recent essay absurdly claiming that Barack Obama has been “the most Biblically hostile” American president.

The PRRI poll also shows that a majority of Americans support requiring that employers, including religiously affiliated employers other than churches and other places of worship, include coverage for contraception in their health insurance plans for employees. And 52 percent of Americans (including 59 percent of Catholics and 65 percent of white mainline Protestants) support the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

So the next time you hear folks on the right shrieking about a “war on religion” in America, just remember that most Americans know better.

You can read more about the poll on the PRRI’s website here.

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Dewhurst Taking a Page from Perry Playbook

March 8, 2012

Does David Dewhurst see electoral gold in politicizing Texas churches? The Texas lieutenant governor is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison is leaving after this year. On March 23 he will attend “a private briefing” with conservative pastors at a megachurch in south Houston. The right-wing Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC) is promoting the event.

From the event’s website:

Join pastors and community leaders for this timely opportunity to have a private briefing on critical issues facing state and nation, and also have personal interaction with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. We will introduce other elected officials and candidates in attendance. Included in the program will be critical Primary and General election information.

This “private briefing” is a page right out of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s political playbook. Gov. Perry has made courting the support of conservative pastors a key part of building his electoral base over the years. In fact, the governor spoke before thousands of pastors and their spouses at six “Pastors Policy Briefings” sponsored by the Texas Restoration Project in 2005 and at others since then. All of the events have been closed to news reporters (except for a crew from the Christian News Network at one). But Restoration Project organizers made it clear that they wanted pastors to use their positions and their churches to push a political agenda (an agenda Gov. Perry promoted in his speeches to those pastors).

The March 23 “briefing” doesn’t appear to be a Restoration Project event, but that seems to be a distinction without much difference. Will reporters be allowed into Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “private briefing” with pastors? We’ll see. But this isn’t a courtesy call by Dewhurst — it’s an effort by yet another politician to drag churches into partisan politics.

We also note that the event will be held at Grace Community Church. The pastor at Grace is Steve Riggle, who last month publicly released a letter demanding that Houston Mayor Annise Parker resign or stop exercising her First Amendment right to speak out in support of same-sex marriage. Texas Restoration Project events for Gov. Perry also featured numerous anti-gay speakers as well as incendiary rhetoric. One speaker, for example, suggested that God sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans and was prepared to incinerate America because of tolerance for gay people.

Is Rick Perry OK with Open Marriages?

January 19, 2012

Today Texas Gov. Rick Perry ended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and threw his support behind former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Perry’s withdrawal from the race wasn’t a big surprise — his support in polls was very low after a series of embarrassing stumbles and gaffes over the past few months.

On the other hand, Perry’s endorsement of Gingrich is at least a little surprising. The Texas governor had aggressively courted conservative evangelical voters throughout a campaign that began just after he hosted a large prayer rally in a Houston football stadium last August. Perry had repeatedly pointed to his positions on social issues, including his desire to “protect” traditional marriage by opposing same-sex unions. But he decided to support thrice-married Gingrich anyway.

Moreover, just before today’s announcement, ABC News released an excerpt of an interview with one of Gingrich’s former wives. She says Gingrich had asked her for an open marriage so that he could continue an affair with the woman who would become his third (and current) wife.

From the ABC News interview (video available at the link):

In her most provocative comments, the ex-Mrs. Gingrich said Newt sought an “open marriage” arrangement so he could have a mistress and a wife.

She said when Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked her if she would share him with the other woman, Callista, who is now married to Gingrich.

“And I just stared at him and he said, ‘Callista doesn’t care what I do,'” Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. “He wanted an open marriage and I refused.”

We don’t expect Gov. Perry to police Newt Gingrich’s marital bedroom, of course. In fact, we’d prefer that politicians focus on their own families instead of interfering in the personal lives of other folks. But we do wonder whether Gov. Perry thinks adultery and open marriages are as threatening to “traditional marriage” as a same-sex couple living in a legally recognized, loving and committed relationship allegedly is. Isn’t that a fair question now?

End-Timers Keep ‘The Response’ Going

January 17, 2012

The far-right hate group American Family Association and other well-known religious right organizations and leaders put together Rick Perry’s big prayer rally in Houston last August. But Perry’s presidential campaign is sinking fast, and Sarah Posner writes in Religion Dispatches that follow-up “The Response” events in Republican presidential primary states are being promoted by somewhat lesser-known groups like the International House of Prayer and its affiliated local churches. Today’s “The Response” event in South Carolina, for example, is being promoted by small churches like the Forerunner House of Prayer (FHOP) in Easley, South Carolina, and the the Greenville House of Prayer.

These IHOP churches attract followers who believe, among other things, that the end times are near. Writes Posner:

These self-anointed “intercessors,” or “end-times warriors,” see themselves as modern-day apostles and prophets, purifying the kingdom, “transforming” cities, regions, and the country through a new Great Awakening, preparing the world for Christ’s return.

Posner explores the theological divide between these “end-time warriors” and the old guard of the religious right:

(T)he national elites had pressed for and endorsed The Response. At last summer’s event, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson called it “the highlight of my life” and praised the “next generation” of evangelicals. The old guard of the religious right isn’t blind to new religious movements in its midst, even the 24/7 prayer movement [FHOP founder] Tallulah Dalton has been swept into. Some conservatives actually consider it heretical, or unbiblical—suggesting that these self-anointed apostles and prophets are the “false prophets” the Bible warns of. (One of these critics, the blogger/activist Marsha West, says The Response participants associated with the New Apostolic Reformation are not Christians, but rather “counterfeits.”)

Read all of Posner’s fascinating piece here.

News or Propaganda?

January 16, 2012

One News Now, the propaganda arm of the far-right group American Family Association, has an article about a poll portrayed as showing that Americans “fear” President Obama’s re-election this year:

According to the new poll from Washington Whispers, a feature in the U.S. News & World Report since 1933, when asked “what news event [Americans] feared the most in 2012,” they responded — by a 2-to-1 margin — “President Obama’s re-election.” While only 16 percent said they fear Obama will not win a second term, 33 percent said they fear four more years.

Then the article quotes right-wing blogger Les Rayburn:

“Most Americans are terrified. President Obama … he’s made it very clear that he’s out to destroy the United States.”

So 33 percent somehow represents “most Americans”? In addition, we suspect that not all of that 33 percent see President Obama’s re-election in such apocalyptic terms. On the other hand, it’s certainly possible given that the propaganda from the far right in recent years has been increasingly extreme and irresponsibly apocalyptic.

We’ll also note that the American Family Association is a hate group that organized a prayer rally for Texas Gov. Rick Perry in Houston the week before Perry announced his run for the presidency last August.

Religious-Right Leaders Back Santorum

January 14, 2012

Texas Gov. Rick Perry lost a key vote in his own backyard on Saturday. Prominent religious-right leaders meeting at a Texas ranch decided to back former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania over Perry, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination this year. That decision should give Santorum a boost in his efforts to rally social conservatives behind his challenge to frontrunner and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. From the Associated Press:

Surrogates for each campaign were said to have made presentations and answered questions. The goal was to determine whether conservative leaders could rally behind one alternative candidate to Romney, in hopes of ensuring one of their own wins the nomination instead of someone they consider more moderate. Many conservative leaders fear a repeat of four years ago when, in their view, a divided conservative base led the GOP to nominate McCain.

Meeting attendees said it took several ballots for 75 percent of attendees to agree on Santorum after winnowing down the field from three candidates: Santorum, Gingrich and Perry. They also said that there was some support for Romney.

The decision appears to have upset David Lane, who in recent years has been a chief organizer of efforts to mobilize conservative evangelical pastors behind selected Republican politicians. Lane helped organize Texas Restoration Project events, for example, that promoted Rick Perry in 2005. From the same AP story:

But David Lane, a California-based pastor who has set up candidate forums with ministers in Iowa, said he was frustrated with the outcome because he does not believe Santorum has an organization or fundraising capability to allow him to campaign deep into the primary season.

He said the choice to back Santorum projects political weakness.

“This country is going to hell, and the evangelical voice is meaningless,” Lane said.

Pray According to GOP Primary Schedule?

January 11, 2012

Rick Perry’s presidential campaign is stumbling, but the folks behind his prayer extravaganza in a Houston football stadium last August seem to be marching on. An email from organizers of The Response today invites folks to a South Carolina prayer rally on January 17 — just four days before that state’s Republican presidential primary.

In fact, The Response organizers have planned all of their post-Houston events for early Republican presidential caucus and primary states. One was in Iowa on December 6, less than a month before that state’s party caucuses. A January 24 Florida rally is scheduled a week before that state’s presidential primaries. And organizers are planning an event in Arizona for February — Republicans go to the polls there on February 28.

Organizers haven’t set specific dates for events in the March GOP primary and caucus states of Washington, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. Those are all listed as “pending.” Perhaps they think the Republican nomination will be settled by then.

You will recall that the Houston rally came just a week before Gov. Perry formally announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Yet here is what we see posted on The Response website:

“In August 2011, The Response gathered 40,000 people in Houston, TX as well as 100,000 unique sites that joined via simulcast to respond to the trumpet call to prayer. Though Governor Rick Perry initiated The Response in Houston, these upcoming state-wide gatherings will not be affiliated with any particular presidential candidates. The Response is committed to prayer above politics, to seeing the church moved to stand for righteousness and to pray for God’s mercy for America.”

“Committed to prayer above politics.” Yeah, sure. We must have missed the obscure Bible verse that instructs us to pray according to the Republican presidential primary schedule.

Are You Fracking Kidding Me?

December 19, 2011

Maybe it’s the stress of the campaign. Maybe it was another gaffe by the gaffe-prone governor. Maybe it’s just simply a change of heart.

But whatever the reason, Gov. Rick Perry exposed himself this weekend as a lover of scientific evidence. For reals.

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Rick Perry’s War on Religious Freedom

December 12, 2011

Rick Perry is so determined to pander to religious-right voters in the Republican presidential primaries that he wants to gut the First Amendment, one of the most important protections for religious freedom in America. See the partial transcript below from Gov. Perry’s interview on Fox News Sunday this past weekend.

Let’s be clear: Gov. Perry is simply not telling the truth when he suggests that children can’t “pray in school any time that they would like.” They can and many do. What the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars is public schools sponsoring or encouraging prayer. That prohibition protects the right of families and congregations to direct the religious education of their children. It also protects the right of students to pray their own prayers based on their own religious beliefs, not the religious beliefs of the teacher or school administrators. In short, public schools may not decide whose religious beliefs to favor or disfavor.

But Gov. Perry wants a constitutional amendment sweeping away that fundamental protection. By arguing to overturn the 1962 Supreme Court decision barring school-sponsored (read: government-approved) prayer, he’s looking to gut the First Amendment. And that would threaten religious freedom for all Americans.

From the Fox News Sunday program:

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Intolerant or Just Plain Ignorant?

December 9, 2011

A new gaffe-filled video of Rick Perry is making the rounds, this one from his editorial board interview with the Des Moines Register on Friday (video from Think Progress):

Think Progress immediately zeroed in on Perry’s reference to “eight unelected” judges on the Supreme Court. (The court has nine justices.) But it fails to mention his arguably more disturbing trampling of the Constitution and First Amendment. Referring to prayer in public schools, Perry says:

The independent school boards that oversee those should make those decision [sic], not government. Again, I mean the idea that we have to be so politically correct that there’s one family that says, listen, I don’t want my child — then that child ought to have the freedom to be, um, you know, can sit over there and play tic-tac-toe or what have you. But the issue is that for Washington to tell a local school district that you cannot have a prayer, and a time of prayer in that school, I think is offensive to most Americans.

Wow. There’s a lot of muddled thinking to unpack here.

First, Perry doesn’t seem to understand that local school boards ARE government. In Texas school boards are  made up of elected politicians who make all manner of policy decisions. If that’s not government, I don’t know what is. (They even set tax rates!)

Second, he’s basically saying here that these politicians should be able to compel students — in the captive environment of a classroom — to sit and listen to a sectarian prayer led by a teacher, principal or other authority figure. And the casual way he so dismissively adds that students who object can “play tic-tac-toe or what have you” shows how little he cares about the rights of families who don’t share the majority faith in their community.

Even more than his intolerant campaign ad earlier this week, this clip provides a window into where the governor stands on the issue of religious freedom — at least when it comes to Americans who don’t adhere to his brand of Christian faith. The question is: does this reflect some sort of cynical pandering to his conservative religious base, or a deep ignorance about the Constitution and First Amendment?

I’m not sure which explanation is more frightening.

Board OKs Christian-Themed License Plate

December 8, 2011

The Texas Freedom Network just sent out the following press release:

STATE APPROVAL OF CHRISTIAN-THEMED LICENSE PLATE DISRESPECTFUL OF CHRISTIANITY, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

DMV Board Vote Diminishes Religious Liberty in Texas

Thursday’s approval by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board of a Christian-themed specialty license plate is disrespectful of Christianity and the religious freedom of people of all faiths, spokespersons for the state’s leading religious liberties watchdog said today.

“It’s become pretty clear that our governor is dismissive of religious beliefs other than his own, and now his governmental appointees have voted to send a message that Texas is unwelcoming to the religious faiths of some of its citizens,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “The truth is that giving government the power to play favorites with faith ultimately diminishes religious freedom for everyone.”

The DMV board approved the “Calvary Hill” specialty license plate design on a 4-3 vote. Proceeds from the government-approved design, which includes the words “One State Under God” and three crosses on a hill, will benefit a Christian youth outreach program. Christians themselves should be concerned by the board’s approval of the license plate design, said the Rev. Dr. Larry Bethune, a TFN board member and pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin.

“I’m disappointed to see the state endorse a particular faith, even if it’s mine, and to see Christians trivialize our faith into slogans and symbols on the back of a bumper,” Bethune said.

The design’s approval by board members appointed by Gov Perry is just the latest disappointment in a challenging year for supporters of religious liberty, Miller said. In August, for example, Gov. Perry hosted a Christians-only prayer event in Houston organized by an anti-gay hate group. The governor has also made appeals specifically to Christians a central strategy of his presidential campaign. Just yesterday, for example, a new Perry campaign ad cited the governor’s Christian faith and charged that President Obama is engaged in a “war on religion” and that liberals are engaged in “attacks on our religious heritage.” The ad suggests that policies promoted by the Obama administration, particularly ending the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy against gays in the military, are anti-Christian.

Rick Perry Goes There (Again)

December 7, 2011

“I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Christian. But you don’t need to be in the pews every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

The Texas Tribune reports that an “official familiar with the campaign strategy” says this new Iowa ad for Gov. Perry is targeting evangelical voters with the message that the “moral fabric of our country is out of whack.” In the ad Perry criticizes what he absurdly calls “Obama’s war on religion” and “liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”

The ad follows a statement yesterday in which Gov. Perry attacked a new Obama administration policy to defend the human rights of gay people who are imprisoned, brutalized and even murdered in some countries. Perry called the policy “not in America’s interests” and “not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.”

Misusing religion to divide voters isn’t a new political strategy for  Gov. Perry, of course. But his rhetoric is increasingly divisive and even incendiary as he desperately tries to regain his footing in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

If you’re concerned about this — and the myriad other ways religion affects modern American politics — then make plans to join the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund in Houston on January 25. We are partnering with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Rice University Religion and Public Life Program to sponsor a “Religion in the 2012 Elections” symposium. Click here to learn more about this special event.

Rick Perry: No Human Rights for Gay People

December 6, 2011

Today Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is trailing badly in his campaign for the White House, sharply denounced President Obama’s decision to require that U.S. agencies abroad “promote and protect the human rights” of gay people in other countries. Gov. Perry’s stunning statements came on the same day that the Obama administration announced the new policy. The governor called the policy a “silly idea,” saying it is “not in America’s interests” and is part of President Obama’s alleged “war on traditional American values”:

“Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.”

The governor said his position went beyond concerns related to national security interests:

“This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many [Americans] of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong. President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed the administration’s new policy in a major speech about human rights in Geneva, Switzerland, today. From the Washington Post:

In her most direct challenge to nations with conservative cultural or religious mores, Clinton catalogued abuses such as targeted killings of gays, “corrective rape” of lesbians or forced hormone treatments. She likened the targeting of gays for mistreatment to “honor killings” of women, widow-burning or female genital mutilation, examples of practices the U.S. decries but has not penalized friends including Afghanistan for carrying out.

“Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition,” she said. “But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal.”

She also compared the evolution of cultural attitudes toward homosexuality to the changing view of slavery.

“What was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights,” she said.

Last month Gov. Perry signed a controversial anti-gay marriage pledge in Iowa that, among other things, claims that being gay is a health risk. Last summer, as he prepared to announce his bid for president, Gov. Perry asked the anti-gay hate group American Family Association to organize a prayer extravaganza in Houston. Six years ago he suggested that gay military veterans returning from the war in Iraq should maybe live somewhere other than Texas. (You can read more about Gov. Perry’s venomous anti-gay record here.)

Now Gov. Perry thinks that directing American agencies overseas to defend the basic human rights of gay people — such as the right to live and be from targeted brutality — is a “silly idea” and “not worth a dime.”

Perry Signs Controversial Marriage Pledge

November 21, 2011

Seeking to revive his troubled presidential campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry appears to have returned to a tactic he’s often used in the past: pandering to far-right groups that demonize gay families and promote intolerance and discrimination toward other favorite targets.

The Des Moines Register’s political news website reports that Gov. Perry has signed a controversial marriage pledge promoted by the far-right group Family Leader in Iowa. So far U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum are the only other Republican presidential candidates who have signed the pledge, although Newt Gingrich’s campaign has indicated that the former U.S. House speaker will also sign it.

ThinkProgress notes part of what the pledge says about gay people:

“The pledge likens homosexuality to polygamy, adultery, or polyandry and asks candidates to vow that being gay is a choice that poses serious health risks like ‘shorter life expectancy.’

But the pledge is insulting to more than just gay Americans. One Republican presidential candidate, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, has called the measure “offensive,” “unrepublican” and a “promise to discriminate”:

“In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims, gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions, and everyone else who doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell painting.”

Last summer Family Leader dropped a particularly incendiary part of the pledge suggesting that African-American families were better off when slavery was still legal. The deleted section read:

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president.”

In any case, it’s hardly surprising that Gov. Perry has signed the pledge. His anti-gay record is well-known in Texas. In August, for example, he asked the anti-gay hate group American Family Association to organize his prayer extravaganza in Houston. He has even suggested that gay veterans returning from the war in Iraq should maybe live somewhere other than Texas. So as he falls further behind in the polls, Gov. Perry has once again placed the banner of prejudice and intolerance at the front of his campaign.

Rick Perry: Pretend Outsider, Real Insider

November 16, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes to pretend that he’s leading an insurgent battle against a tyrannical federal government, even going so far as to flirt with secessionists. Now the Republican presidential candidate is also trying to persuade voters that he wants to crack down on elected officials who use their office and political connections for financial gain. He will likely regret bringing up the subject.

A new ad for Perry’s presidential campaign insists that officeholders who use “insider knowledge to profit in the stock market” should be thrown in jail. But the Texas Tribune reports that longtime observers of the governor say his career “is peppered with instances in which his personal and political relationships became entangled in ways that helped him profit financially.”

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