The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Criticism Grows of Texas Governor’s Hate Group-Sponsored Rally

By Ryan Lenz on June 13, 2011 - 4:13 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

UPDATE: The Response spokesman Eric Bearse said on June 13 on AFA’s American Family Radio that the main objective of the event AFA is holding with Gov. Perry is to show people that Christianity is the only way to be hopeful. Bearse, who once served as Perry’s director of communications, said on the radio program, “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.”

After news spread last week that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is planning to hold a prayer rally in August funded and organized by the stridently anti-gay group, the American Family Association (AFA), the governor and his staff have worked feverishly to distance themselves from the group’s hateful views.

Katherine Cesinger, spokeswoman for the governor, did not return several calls from the Southern Poverty Law Center seeking comment about Perry’s association with AFA. But earlier she told others that, “controversial statements [by AFA] have nothing to do with what the Governor is trying to promote.”

The AFA’s comments about the LGBT community – most notably those made by its director of policy analysis Bryan Fischer – are certainly controversial. Last year, for example, Fischer said, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph [sic] Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” More recently, in comments about a South African newspaper columnist found guilty of hate speech for a 2008 column, Fischer said, “This sorry incident tells us two things: homosexualism will kill free speech, and homosexualists are bigots.”

It’s no surprise that Perry would associate himself so closely with an anti-gay group like AFA. In a decade as governor, he has waged a fight to keep “homosexual conduct” listed as a criminal offense in the state penal code – a law he has said is “appropriate.” The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. In 2005, while signing a bill to amend the state constitution to specifically prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying, Rob Parsley, a celebrity Pentecostal faith healer, joined Perry and lauded the governor for “protecting the children of Texas from the gay agenda.”

Several newspapers have lampooned the governor for his choice of allies, while others have demanded Perry answer for restricting other faiths from the gathering. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial claimed that, “By partnering with the American Family Association to sponsor the Aug. 6 event, the governor has hitched his holy chariot to a religious group known for publicly denouncing Muslims, Jews, blacks, gays and those who support a woman’s right to choose.” An editorial in the Los Angeles Times noted the obvious reality about Perry’s political character: “Perry isn’t a bit shy about cultivating some of the more sinister right-wing culture warriors.”

The Texas Freedom Network, a civil rights organization based in Austin, has begun circulating a petition to demand Perry cancel the August event, abandon AFA as a chief sponsor or work more openly to include other faiths. Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the network, said partnering with AFA is no different than joining hands with the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nations.

“We’re talking about people who use faith as a weapon to divide Americans and to target certain individuals in our society for discrimination or worse,” Quinn told the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Wincing from the barrage of criticism, Fischer has attacked the “lame effort” from the “leftwing blogosphere” to discredit the event by pointing to his anti-gay tirades. Last Thursday, he released a long list of “distortions” to which he claims he has been victim. He said he had never attributed the rise of the Nazi Party and the horrors of the Holocaust to “homosexuality,” when in fact he did just that.

“I clearly lay the blame for the Holocaust on the Nazi Party, but attribute the rise of the Nazi Party to homosexual brutes,” he wrote. “Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religious if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents.”

Perry’s event is being billed as “The Response: a Call to Prayer for a Nation is Crisis.” It is scheduled for Aug. 6 at Reliant Stadium, a 72,000-seat venue in Houston. Promotional materials for the gathering quote Perry saying, “As a nation, we must come together, call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles. … There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”

  • Stu Steinberg

    “…AFA is holding with Gov. Perry is to show people that Christianity is the only way to be hopeful.”

    This why it is clear that Perry, the AFA, and all fundamentalist evangelicals are inherently anti-Semitic. Any other conclusion is fallacious. It has been obvious for some time that their true support for Israel has noting to do with the fact that it is a Jewish state, but has to do with the fact that Jerusalem is where Christ is supposed to reappear. They want it “protected” by Israeli and US military might only for this purpose, not because they care if millions of Jews end up dead. Their belief is that they are right, despite their minority status within the world’s religions, and the rest of us are not just wrong but will suffer death at the hands of the anti-Christ after the rapture. Here’s my thought. I hope the rapture people are right because then these hate-filled cretins will be gone. The rest of us can figure out how to kill the anti-Christ and finally live in peace. There’s a “South Park” episode where John Edward, of “Crossing Over” fame, is voted biggest douche in the universe and spirited away by an intergalactic group to some faraway planet to receive his award. If this were to ever be true, Rick Perry would, no doubt, win the award. We should be so lucky.

  • Sam Molloy

    These people are Chrstian like I’m the Queen of England.

  • Jesus H Christ

    Yeah! Let ye who hath not sinned, cast the first stone!
    Actually, since Lott screwing his daughters is the only time that Sex is mentioned in the story of Soddom and Gomorah, Homosexuality is not ‘Soddomy’ – know one knows what those supposedly ‘sinful’ peoples ‘sins’ were.
    Homsexuality is Okay.
    Oh, and, BTW – Dad wanted me to pass on this Message:
    “About that, ‘Go Forth and Propser’, thing? Good Job! New Instructions! Stay put, unless your Job demands it, and have three or less Children! Oh! And get Your Species Butts off of the Earth, so you can ‘Bring Heaven Down To It’ – that’s’a how youz’a a gonna get your ‘Golden Age’, My Beloved Chill’un!!!”
    Love: God.

  • Michelle

    “AFA is holding with Gov. Perry is to show people that Christianity is the only way to be hopeful.”
    What a joke. I’m quite happy and hopeful not having Christianity in my life. What these people call Christianity is just a joke.

  • RockyMissouri

    I want my nation back from these fruitcakes….you remember, the one that believed in: ‘Separation of Church and State’ — now THOSE are holy words….!

  • Donamabel

    I want to believe this country (including Texas) will continue to be a country of ALL races, ALL religions, with equal rights for all citizens, Male and Female……

  • Donald S. Holly Jr.

    “Politics- The study and implementation of those issues which relate to human interests.” —D. Holly

    Politics has always had much to do with religion and in the same breath little to do with it depending on ones immediate perspective about life. We should reason together on all occasions.

  • venomlash

    Christianity is the only way to be hopeful?
    I’m Jewish, and I’m hoping I find a decent summer job. BOOM. Disproven.

  • Morgan

    Perry is the worst kind of professional politician. He has no agenda other than opportunism. If the majority of voters in Texas advocated nudism Perry would be the first one to praise Jesus and strip.
    His success as the longest serving governor is an undisputed success to keep Texas a business friendly state. There’s nothing wrong with that but he fails miserably on ‘quality of life’ issues such as education and health care for the uninsured.
    I doubt that he will be successful in his attempt to bring his transparent phoniness to a national platform. He really has nothing to distinguish himself from other potential Republican candidates who hold sincere conservative values.

  • Walter

    Treaty of Tripoli, which explicitly states in Article 11: “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” They could not have been any more clear on this topic.

    Enough said !!

    Science and Reason Only !!

    ..oh! but I forgot..the religious wingnuts, popes, witchdoctors, potentates, etc don’t like Science and Reason…look how it proved that the earth was not the center of the universe or that it was not flat…or that Thor the Thunder God didn’t exist..

    Oh that the non religious would go to 99%
    Like John Lennen….Imagine theres no heaven…only sky above….wow!!

  • krissy

    Doesn’t the AFA remember the pink triangle nazis affixed to gays before they too were gassed? This rhetoric is really for Rick Perry’s ilk- those who have not had a good education. And look at how far Rick perry has gone to keep Texas kids ignorant. The schools are failing, they have no health insurance, they’re an “at-will” state where employers don’t have to follow US labor laws. He talks of secession but that would only make life worse for the people who live there.

  • Finn

    ShadowWolf: You need to retake History 101. Read the Constitution. Show me where it mentions Jesus or God. The sole mention of religion appears in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The founding fathers were eminently capable of expressing themselves in writing; if they’d intended to create this as a Christian nation, they would have said so explicitly. Instead, they left religion out of the Constitution completely, except to say that the government needed to keep its nose out of it. A mere 9 years after this nation’s founding, they removed any possibilityy of doubt by ratifying the Treaty of Tripoli, which explicitly states in Article 11: “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” They could not have been any more clear on this topic.

  • malachite

    No Shadowwolf, the US is not a nation founded by “Christians” and it’s not “history 101″ that is was. A number of the Framers (including Jefferson) did not have a high opinion of religion and specifically did NOT want to have a state religion as did (does) the UK as well as some western European nations. That’s why there’s is separation between church and state in the US as a Constitutional doctrine.

    It is always interesting to hear alleged “christians” talk about the “love of Jesus” in one sentence, followed by statements of hate & fear for other religions and other people. Contradictory and hypocritical.

    Why can’t all these wonderful christians just demonstrate through their peaceful, prosperous, charitable, helpful and contented lives how much their religion improves their lives, characters & minds? Why continually work at forcing all of us to behave as they believe?

  • Randy L Benson

    we’ve had theocracies in the past, in colonial New England, based on Deuteronomy and Leviticus. lotta death penalties, including those for kids talking back to parents. thought police, too, to make sure everyone behaved ‘properly’. we have a new crop of theocrats who want to take over the US in the name of ‘God’, of course putting themselves up in power over everyone else.

    there’s already a place like that, named Iran.

    we’re a ‘Christian nation’ in the sense that most of our population are affiliated with one type or another of Christianity, but that’s it. anyone claiming the Founders meant it that way is highly delusional or running a scam, like David Barton.

  • RLavigueur

    Shadow Wolf,

    Your nation was founded by Christians, it does not follow that the U.S. Constitution was based entirely on Christian doctrine, although that was certainly one influence. Whatever the USA once was though, today it has gained a mixed history of theocratic and secular traditions, often at odds with each other, but with observable trends of late.

    Here’s one reason why the religious right is desperate. The percentage of non-religious people in your country in 1990 was about 8%. Today, over 15% report themselves non-religious. In the same years, Christianity has declined from 86% to 76%.

    Assuming that the upcoming generations are religious at all, which version of Christianity do you think they’ll adhere to? The AFA’s positions hardly have much appeal to the young, and while “they” might have succeeded in making it a Christian nation, the damage of which cannot be underestimated, “they” are not immortal, and things aren’t looking good for the long term future of “their” theocracy.

  • Gonzo

    ShadowWolf…Read the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by a Congress composed of many of the Founding Fathers of the US which specifically states the US was NOT founded as a Christian nation or on any religious basis.

  • Shadow Wolf

    “We are NOT a Christian nation”

    Unfortunately for you. Yes we are a Christian nation. This country was founded on Christian principles and the U.S. Constitution was based upon Christian doctrines. After all, the White man implented both the “Doctrines of Discovery” and Manifest Destiny”, both of which are rooted in Christianity.

    It’s all History 101, pal. They already made it a Christian nation.

  • Robert Gonzalez

    This not a Theocracy and these groups are trying their hardest to make the U.S. a Christian nation forsaking the separation of church and state. This is getting out of hand. You don’t hear Muslims, Buddhists or Jews doing anything of the sort. We are NOT a Christian nation. We are a nation that is supposed to separate church from state for a very good reason. Right wing Christians have Islamophobia and are afraid the Muslims want to institute Sharia law here in the US. I am afraid these ridiculous Christians are trying to do the same thing. Religion has no right to be involved with politics. No rights dictated by law.

  • Gregory

    It seems odd that an organization that is so freaked out about gay sex would suggest that we can find heaven on our knees. Just saying…..

  • Shadow Wolf

    Wasn’t it just a couple months ago in this very thread that AFA was now directing it’s vile hatred on Native Americans as well? No mentioning of it herein.