Religious, LGBT groups continue condemnation of Perry, AFA event

Posted on: June 9th, 2011 by Mary Tuma 5 Comments

Image by Matt MahurinA growing number of religious-based and LGBT rights groups are voicing their stern condemnation of Gov. Rick Perry’s recent call for Christian prayer and fasting at an event sponsored by an anti-gay conservative organization.

Objections to the Houston prayer summit titled “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis,” have already been raised by groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Interfaith Alliance, Secular Coalition for America, Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Texas Democratic Party, as the Texas Independent previously reported. Critics are not only questioning the religious exclusivity and potential violations of church-state separation of the prayer event, but are blasting Perry’s affiliation with event funder American Family Association, a socially conservative group whose record is rife with scathing rhetorical attacks on Muslim, Jewish, African-American and homosexual communities. Several organization leaders are wondering why Perry has taken the risk to align himself with such a hotly controversial and, what many are considering, extremist and marginal group of activists.

A spokesperson for America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said his group was in accord with Perry during his recent call for prayer for rain during record-high Texas droughts, but considers his partnership with AFA for a major religious event highly questionable.

“No one is objecting to prayer, but it is inappropriate for any elected official to associate with and lend legitimacy to an organization that has offered such extremism and hate-field views on a number of topics, including a [rhetorical] tax on Islam and Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director. “Most interestingly, AFA is regarded as such an extremist fringe group I wonder why the governor has chosen to associate with them.”

CAIR has called on elected leaders to refrain from partnering with AFA in the past due to its adverse stance on the Muslim community, such as defending statements by Rev. Franklin Graham, who was dismissed from presiding over the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer celebration for deeming Islam “evil and wicked.” Bryan Fischer, director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, wrote in his blog:

There is no freedom of religion in Islam. Christians are given three choices and three choices only, where Islam has the power to impose its will: convert, submit or die. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is a capital offense in most Muslim countries. So what about the complete and total absence of religious liberty? “Evil and wicked” or not?

Additionally, Fischer argued that the armed forces are overrun by fundamentalist Muslims and homosexuals:

Bottom line: you want to know who’s now running the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy and the Marines and calling the shots where it counts? Fundamentalist Muslims and homosexual activists.

AFA has also suggested Muslims don’t have first amendment rights as our sister publication the Iowa Independent has previously reported. Fischer wrote in March:

From a constitutional point of view, Muslims have no First Amendment right to build mosques in America. They have that privilege at the moment, but it is a privilege that can be revoked if, as is in fact the case, Islam is a totalitarian ideology dedicated to the destruction of the United States. The Constitution, it bears repeating, is not a suicide pact. For Muslims, patriotism is not the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the First Amendment is.

In another post dated May 19, Fischer outlined four steps to, “save Western Civilization,” that include eradicating all mosques, denying Muslims inclusion into the U.S. military, and cutting off Muslim immigration to the United States. “There is no such thing as moderate Islam. Islam itself is a dangerous infection, and every devout Muslim is a carrier,” he wrote.

AFA has targeted the Jewish community, too, in literature produced by the group. In an issue of the American Family Association Journal -– which boasts some 180,000 paid subscribers– author Randall Murphree suggested that a Jewish upbringing leads to hatred of Christians, and by extension, a criminal lifestyle, Media Matters for America found. AFA founder and president Donald Wildmon has also drawn ire for anti-Semitic remarks from Jewish rights groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress.

The ADL of Austin vocalized concern with the religious exclusivity of the event, cautioning against the endorsement of one religion over another by publicly elected officials.

“Governor Perry’s invitation to his fellow governors and citizens to join in a Christian prayer meeting is deeply insensitive and suggests to non-Christians that they are outsiders,” said Karen Gross, Austin ADL community director. “Official statements and proclamations which divide Americans along religious lines are not a productive way to address the problems our society needs to confront.”

“We believe fervently in religious liberty,” she added. “It is one of America’s greatest strengths. But the best way to safeguard religious liberty for all Americans is for our government to keep its distance.”

With a stated goal of combating the “homosexual agenda,” AFA has made attacking the LGBT ‘lifestyle’ a hallmark issue. Classified as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for promoting false, anti-gay propaganda, such as linking homosexuality with the cause of the Holocaust, AFA lobbies against gay and lesbian involvement through boycotts and petitions. In the late ’90s, the group impacted Texas journalism, launching a campaign against gay reporters that caused the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to transfer a gay editor out of a job that occasionally required him to work with schoolchildren, according to a 1996 Dallas Observer article. Reported, the Star-Telegram editor responded to the AFA’s, “unsubstantiated contention that the man was preoccupied with the subjects of pedophilia and incest.”

AFA president Tim Wildmon has called homosexual behavior “immoral, unnatural and unhealthy,” while Fischer routinely takes aim at the LGBT community in his blog, likening the “risks” and “dangers” of homosexuality to drug use. In a post titled “Homosexuality, Hitler and ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’

Fischer wrote:

Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it’s time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.

Wildom told the Texas Tribune recently that non-Christians are headed to hell. “It’s not just Jews or Muslims,” Wildmon said. “It’s anybody that rejects the free gift of salvation through Christ. The Bible teaches there’s heaven and hell. Those who believe go to heaven. Those who don’t go to hell.”

The Log Cabin Republicans, a national GOP-based LGBT-rights group, denounced Perry for his connection with the AFA and cast doubt over the event’s legitimacy.

“There are great opportunities for all Americans to come together on, particularly those of faith to engage and come together on. However, Governor Perry’s marriage with American Family Association, a fringe group that seeks to divide families rather foster unity, on this, undermines any credibility that could be given to such an event,” said Christian Berle, Log Cabin deputy executive director.

“We definitely support people’s religious freedom but to align oneself with such a blatant anti-LGBT type group, whose main mission is to demonize, marginalize and disenfranchise gay people is a little disheartening,” said Dennis Coleman, executive director of LGBT-education at Texas research and lobby group Equality Texas.

Coleman said there are rumblings of a possible nation and state-wide coalition among those opposed to the prayer event’s affiliation with AFA.

“We are a state of many different people and much diversity – and the governor represents all of us. To alienate a whole group is disappointing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Texas Freedom Network is circulating an open letter telling Perry to “Stop Using Faith as a Political Weapon.”

Haley Barbour, the governor of AFA’s home state of Mississippi, has received an invitation — sent by Perry to governors in all states – but has yet to finalize his August schedule, press secretary Laura Hipp said. According to Politico, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has declined Perry’s invitation, while Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has said yes, making him the first one to confirm his attendance in Houston.

An email from the Family Research Council claimed that three other governors, Florida’s Rick Scott, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Washington’s Christine Gregoire, are declaring days of prayer in their own states. A spokesperson for Scott told our sister publication the Florida Independent Scott signed a proclamation “extend[ing] greetings and best wishes to all observing August 6, 2011 as a Day of Prayer for Our nation,” but hasn’t actually declared Aug. 6 as a day of prayer.

Catholics mark Aug. 6 as the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, celebrating the revelation of Jesus’ divine nature on Mount Tabor.

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