[FoRK] Texas Governor Mobilizes Evangelicals

Adam L Beberg beberg at mithral.com
Sun Jun 12 18:58:13 PDT 2005

You Austin folks may want to start packing up if you're not white 
fundamentalists. They are coming for you.


Texas Governor Mobilizes Evangelicals
By MATT CURRY, Associated Press Writer

Even for Texas, the scene was remarkable: The governor, flanked by an 
out-of-state televangelist and religious right leaders, signing 
legislation in a church school gymnasium amid shouts of "amen" from 
backers who just as well could have been attending a revival.

It wasn't just the blatant blend of church and state that made the 
gathering in Fort Worth unusual. Advance publicity also attracted about 
300 angry protesters — unheard of for the routine business of ceremonial 
bill signings.

Now some wonder whether Gov. Rick Perry overplayed his hand last week 
trying to stick to the playbook used by old friend George W. Bush and 
political whiz Karl Rove, mobilizing evangelicals for last year's 
presidential race.

"Governor Perry and his people are just not as good as Bush and Rove," 
Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson said. 
"Governor Perry knows the steps, but he's got no rhythm."

Perry's faith-based appeal came as he awaited possible Republican Party 
primary challenges from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (news, bio, 
voting record) and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn in 2006. But 
Jillson said the ex-Democrat risks alienating moderate Republicans 
turned off by an in-your-face approach to political issues with 
religious themes.

It's a gamble the governor seems willing to take. Last month, he spoke 
to about 500 pastors in Austin at a meeting of the Texas Restoration 
Project, which plans to register 300,000 new "values voters" in Texas 
and elect candidates who reflect their conservative views.

In the private meeting, Perry championed promotion of spiritual values 
on the public square.

"One of the great myths of our time is that you can't legislate 
morality," the governor told the ministers, according to a transcript 
provided to The Associated Press by his campaign.

"If you can't legislate morality, then you can neither lock criminals up 
nor let them go free. If you can't legislate morality, you can neither 
recognize gay marriage nor prohibit it. If you can't legislate morality, 
you can neither allow for prayer in school nor prevent it," he said. "It 
is a ridiculous notion to say you can't legislate morality. I say you 
can't NOT legislate morality."

Perry, a United Methodist, did not refer to the death penalty, which his 
denomination says devalues life and should be eliminated from criminal 
codes. The governor, a capital punishment proponent, presides over the 
nation's most active death penalty state.

Perry's pastor, the Rev. James Mayfield of Tarrytown United Methodist 
Church in Austin, did not respond to e-mail or phone messages from the 
AP seeking comment.

Perry grew up attending both the Baptist and Methodist churches in the 
tiny Paint Creek community in West Texas, spokeswoman Kathy Walt said. 
His religious beliefs are guided by several factors, including his 
understanding of scripture and conversations with "faith leaders."

"His walk of faith is a lifelong journey of a sinner who has accepted 
the grace of God," she said.

Ohio televangelist Rod Parsley and Tony Perkins of the Family Research 
Council in Washington were among the religious conservatives who shared 
the stage with Perry at the Fort Worth bill signing. Parsley linked 
homosexuality and disease rates, and about 1,000 supporters cheered 
attacks on "activist judges" and the media.

Objections to Perry using a church school as a backdrop to a bill 
signing preceded his visit, with critics mostly focusing on separation 
of church and state.

"This is one of the most outrageous misuses of a house of worship for 
political gain that I've ever seen," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive 
director of Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of 
Church and State.

Perry shrugged off the complaints.

"We could have signed it in a lot of different locations," Perry said on 
Fox News. "We could have signed it in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and those 
who are against people of faith being involved in the electoral process 
would still have been very much against this bill."

Perry actually signed two measures. One will impose more limits on 
late-term abortions and require minor girls to get written parental 
consent. The other would ban same-sex marriage, but voters must approve 
the constitutional amendment in November.

Perkins said he sees nothing wrong with signing legislation at a 
Christian school, and he pointed to a consistent theme of the 
bill-signing: Forces are at work to exclude the religious-minded from 
political and civic debate.

"People of faith are not backing up, we are not giving up, we are here 
to stay," he said.

Luis Saenz, Perry's campaign spokesman, said Perry is not the first 
governor to sign a bill in a religious setting.

Political consultant Marc Campos, who was an aide to former Democratic 
Gov. Mark White, confirmed White signed a bill in 1984 extending workers 
compensation benefits to farm workers on the front steps of a Catholic 
shrine where Mass was held regularly.

He wrote on his Web site that he didn't recall "getting cracked on for 
holding a bill signing ceremony at a religious institution."

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