Conservative Christians meet in Texas to block Romney and find consensus candidate
The smoke filled rooms of the past have been replaced by the prayer filled rooms of the Hidden Hills Ranch. Conservative Christian evangelical leaders are meeting this weekend at the home of former Texas judge Paul Pressler. The invitation to the meeting reportedly says that “conservatives of faith need to attempt to reach a consensus on which Republican presidential candidate or candidates we can support, in order to be most effective.”
Several media outlets are reporting that several hundred conservative Christian leaders were invited to the two-day “call to action” near Brenham, Texas. The McClatchy news service reports that the meeting will begin tonight and last throughout the weekend, and that more meetings in the future are likely in an attempt to choose a consensus candidate to block frontrunner Mitt Romney from the nomination.
The concern among Christian conservatives is that support for a presidential candidate that shares their values and vision has been too fractured so far. With candidates such as Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Michele Bachmann splitting the evangelical vote, Romney has been able to win the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. According to Real Clear Politics, Romney is leading the field nationally by 11.4% and by 8.7% in South Carolina.
Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning news reports that participants share one thing in common, “Romney is not their guy.” Texas Gov. and fading Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry reportedly attended and spoke at other similar meetings at the ranch of Christian conservative James Leininger and at the Euless church of televangelist James Robison. Leininger is an influential education activist, and one of the major bankrollers of the Texas Republican Party.
The list of those possibly attending the meeting is a who’s who of the conservative Christian movement, people deeply involved in the culture war who have fought against abortion rights, gay rights, and other issues important to social conservatives.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, has been designated as the spokesman of the group. The Family Research Council has been significantly involved in promoting anti-abortion legislation and attacking marriage equality throughout state legislatures. Recently the American Independent reported that they backed Personhood Florida’s campaign to place a “fetal personhood” amendment on the state’s 2014 ballot, and collaborated with organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage.
The president and chief executive of Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute, Kelly Shackelford, is reportedly among the attendees. Shackelford is among those that signed an open letter asking the conservative Christian leaders to refuse to support Romney’s campaign for president, stating “a Romney candidacy would be disastrous for the conservative movement and for the country.” The Liberty Institute was also involved in the campaign to prevent Rep. Joe Straus’ reelection as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
Don Wildmon, president of the event sponsor American Family Association (AFA), was one of the organizers of “The Response,” a highly publicized religious rally attended by Rick Perry. As the Texas Independent reported, following “The Response,” Wildmon sent an e-mail message to those who’d registered for the event, encouraging them to become involved in the group’s effort to register 5 million new conservative Christian voters. As a religious nonprofit, the AFA — a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-gay hate organization, is barred from directly or indirectly supporting or opposing any candidate for public office.
Other leaders reportedly attending the meeting include Gary Bauer, president of American Values, and David Barton, president and founder of WallBuilders; and Christian Zionist leader John Hagee of San Antonio.