Fresh from his successful “The Response” day of prayer rally that drew nearly 30,000 believers to Reliant stadium in Houston this past Saturday, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry is headed across the Bible Belt to Charleston, S.C., where he will tell the world on Saturday that he intends to run for president of the United States. What better time than this weekend to let the American people know how his religious convictions inform his world view and the policies he would pursue as the nation’s chief executive.
After all, it was Rick Perry’s showy, public embrace of his evangelical faith that has helped catapult his name into the GOP presidential race. That, along with leaders on the religious right who have embraced him as one of their own.
Clearly, Perry’s Christianity drives his response to problems besieging the country. “As a nation” Perry stated on The Response event Web site, “we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”
But let’s stop right there. What, pray tell, about the millions of Americans who, for reasons of their own, don’t, and have no intention to “call upon Jesus”? Should a president, elected to represent all of the American people, publicly align himself, and the country, with one religious faith?
The people Perry relied on to help organize last Saturday’s prayer rally seem to think so.
People for the American Way, a persistent critic of the politically active religious right, has compiled a long list of statements made by individuals and groups behind Perry’s Response rally.
The American Family Association, which led the event’s organizing effort, figures quite prominently promoting the notion that religious diversity is for the birds — or Satan. Bryan Fischer, AFA’s chief spokesman has, according to People for the American Way, “demanded all immigrants ‘convert to Christianity’ and renounce their religions.”
People for the American Way also said Fischer “claimed African American women ‘rut like rabbits’ due to welfare and that Native Americans are ‘morally disqualified’ from living in America because they didn’t convert to Christianity and were consequently cursed by God with alcoholism and poverty.” The report goes on like this for seven pages.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We went through some of this in the latest election cycle with the furor over then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s association with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in Chicago. Guilt by association is pernicious business.
Nonetheless, Perry’s upcoming Charleston speech is a golden opportunity for him to explain to a religiously diversified America how he will and won’t promote his Christian conservative perspective in the White House. Rick Perry should be prepared to say whether he believes that America is a Christian nation, that Christians should control all aspects of American life, that same-sex marriage will destroy America, that it’s right to try to bring Jews and other non-Christians to Christianity, and that it’s quite all right for a president of the United States to promote his particular religious faith.
The answer to each question should be “no.”
Now that is a response from Perry that the nation needs.