Some in GOP, Faith Community Leery of Perry’s Prayer Day
An Aug. 6 prayer event organized by Texas Gov. Rick Perry is intended to appeal to the Almighty to restore America’s prosperity. But some in the GOP worry that the event, known as "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis," will harm, Perry’s chances at a presidential run.
Though Perry’s call to prayer has attracted critical commentary from across the nation, the event itself has attracted few followers -- though the lengthy list of anti-gay clerics who have signed on has raised hackles among GLBT observers, who have decried "The Response" and Gov. Perry for the inclusion of a Who’s Who from the religious fringe right.
The 71,000-seat Reliant football stadium in Houston will hardly be filled to capacity. Only 8,000 attendees have signed up. But the seven-hour prayer vigil may well exert an influence over the coming electoral race far in excess of its tiny stature.
Liberals aren’t the only ones voicing doubt about the governor’s elaborate show of faith. GOP strategist John Feehery told the Washington Post that "The Response" "might play well in Iowa or South Carolina, but I’m not sure how well it plays in New Hampshire, Florida or Michigan.
"It’s too much of an overt mixing of religion and politics," added Feehery. "Rick Perry has got to decide if he wants to run for president or run to replace Pat Robertson."
"One thing Republicans are going to demand this election is a candidate who can beat Barack Obama," GOP strategist Alex Castellanos told the Associated Press, which quoted him in an Aug. 3 article. "The election is all about him.
"A candidate who establishes his identity on the fringe, talking about social and religious issues, when the economy is going over a cliff, risks marginalizing himself, becoming unacceptable to independents and unelectable," added Castellanos. "That would be the kiss of death."
Castellanos added: "Perry should be trying to establish recognition as the minister of job creation. This leads him to build an identity as just a minister."
The AP article took note of the fact that the AFA is footing the bill for the event, not taxpayers. But the AP also remarked on the AFA’s inclusion among hate groups by The Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog that monitors extremist groups. The SPLC listed the AFA as a hate group "for spreading misinformation about homosexuals and transgender people," the AP article said.
"Perry has dismissed such characterizations and appeared on a Christian radio show with the association’s president, Tim Wildmon," the AP article continued.
Perry himself has said that the prayer day "is not political, it’s not about promoting an organization." But that didn’t stop Perry from sending out invitations to Congressional members and the president, as well as number of other state governors. Only one politician -- Sam Brownback of Kansas -- RSVPd, the Post article said. Other media sources noted that Brownback’s office would not confirm the governor’s plans for the weekend, leading to speculation that Brownback may be a no-show.
Moreover, there’s a political tinge about the lineup of speakers and sponsors for "The Response." The event will not be all prayer and fasting: Well-known anti-gay figures such as The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins will be on hand to offer speeches.
The Family Research Council, a vitriolically anti-gay group, made headlines last year when its co-founder, George Rekers, hired a male escort from website RentBoy.com to accompany him on a European vacation. Though Rekers denied any previous knowledge of the 20-year-old man’s resume as an escort, the young man himself told the media that sexual massages on a daily basis were part of his duties during the trip.
The Family Research Council quickly and quietly distanced itself from Rekers.
Rekers has also been identified in news reports as the doctor who attempted to "cure" a young gay child in the 1970s. Though Rekers seemingly referred to the child as a success story in "curing" homosexuality for decades afterwards, the young man the child grew into came out as gay in his 20s. Later, at age 38, he committed suicide.
Rekers, evidently unaware of his former patient’s suicide, continued to make reference to the treatment he had overseen for a patient he referred to by the pseudonym "Kraig," claiming success with Kraig in "Handbook of Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attractions."
Perry’s prayer day has been characterized as a response to a "financial and moral crisis" in America. The financial crisis is too readily observable in the daily lives of ordinary Americans, as unemployment remains high and the stock market, rattled by a recent game of chicken between Congress and the White House over the federal deficit, took a nosedive earlier this week that was reminiscent of the 2008 financial meltdown.
But what some call a "moral crisis," others see as a remarkable period of progress for minorities striving for full legal and social parity. For GLBTs in particular, the last few years have been a watershed: Marriage equality is now legal in half a dozen states, the anti-gay law that prevented gay and lesbian patriots from serving their country openly is in the final weeks before its repeal is final, and the Obama Administration has come out against another anti-gay federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies same-sex families any recognition on the federal level.