On August 6, 2011, Texas Governor and U.S. Presidential hopeful, Rick Perry, will take the stage in support of and collaboration with a certified hate group. Governor Perry called for a National Day of Prayer in response to the “crisis” faced by America. The event, aptly titled “The Response,” is sponsored by the American Family Association (AFA), which recently received a “hate group” designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
While Governor Perry guised his intolerance of equality in the shrouds of “religion” and “prayer” the real Truth of The Response became evident when the president of the American Family Association (AFA), Tim Wildmon, acknowledged that one of the purposes of the prayer event is to end the “increasing acceptance of homosexuality” by American society.
While purportedly Christian groups like the AFA vehemently target LGBTQ people and have developed political agendas to deny equal protection of queer Americans, not all Christians translate faith into bigotry. According to the Religion Poll conducted this year by the Human Rights Campaign,
The majority of Christians oppose the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, favor protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination, favor laws prohibiting bullying and harassment against LGBT students or the children of LGBT parents, [86%] believe their faith leads them to conclude that the law should treat LGBT people equally, and believe condemnation of LGBT people by religious leaders does more harm than good.
However, the remaining 14% of Christians opposed to equal protections under the law are the vocal minority.
But Perry has awakened the majority by his alliance with a hate group. The Houston Clergy Council released a statement requesting that Governor Perry leave ministry to the clergy and “refocus his energy on the work of governing our state,” noting that the AFA is not only an anti-gay hate group, but has also “been stridently anti-Muslim, going so far as to question the rights of Muslim Americans to freely organize and practice their faith.”
The event has grabbed the interest of non-clergy organizations as well, spawning an online petition to be hand delivered to the Governor’s office by members of GetEQUAL demanding that the Governor remove himself from the event or remove the AFA as a sponsor. But Perry hasn’t yet backed down. In fact, in a recent interview with Fox News, Perry and Fox News’ Neil Cavuto exchanged the following dialogue:
Cauvuto: You have kind of like the Chris Christie phenomenon: very popular outside your state, still popular but not nearly as popular within your state. There are even Tea Party groups within your state who like you but don’t love you. [...] What do you say?
Perry: I say that a prophet is generally not loved in their hometown. That’s both Biblical and practical.
Robin McGehee, the National Director of GetEQUAL, suggests the event deserves bold action, stating:
From conservative religious bashing to ballot bashing to queer bashing – too often these voices of hate dominate our communities in an effort to strip away our dignity. Sadly, these coordinated efforts lead to self-hate, self-violence and hate crimes. It is our hope that a unified voice of dignity, love and equality will take bold action in Houston and wherever the voices of bigoted prejudice, discrimination and hate exist to say, ‘enough is enough.’
But not all LGBTQ advocates concur with removal of the AFA from the event. Most notable were remarks made to the Houston Chronicle by the Mayor Annise Parker, who is openly lesbian and largely heralded as and LGBTQ civil rights hero. When asked if she considered the AFA holding an event in her city an insult, she said, “No, I’m glad to have anybody’s dollars coming to the city of Houston. They can come back on a monthly basis if they’d like as long as they spend money.”
The AFA has certainly spent money. The organization is accused of funneling roughly $25,000 for lobbying initiatives against the U.S. State Department’s condemnation of the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill, which would make homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by death. It has also invested significantly in teaching churches how to advocate for political causes while maintaining their tax-exempt status.
Several rallies and protests of the event have also been planned with varying messages, including “separation of church and state” due to reports that Perry used State resources in planning and organizing The Response.
Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio, a writer for Ignite San Antonio Magazine, and blogger at jaysays.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.
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