Gov. Rick Perry’s planned Aug. 6 day of prayer and fasting, “the Response,” has garnered a range or reactions over the last month, from Houston clergy expressing concern about the blurring of lines between church and state, to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force decrying the rally as “profoundly harmful.” What almost every denouncement of “the Response” has in common is shock that the governor would align himself with the American Family Association, an organization listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
For those who’ve followed Perry’s political career closely, however, his connections with a notorious hate group are just par for the course.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a pro-bono legal firm and civil rights advocacy group. Since shortly after its founding in 1971 the SPLC has declared certain groups “hate groups” based on the groups’ perpetuation of inaccurate and harmful information about communities fighting for their civil rights. In the case of anti-gay groups the SPLC places organizations on the list of hate groups for “their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”
Perry publicly aligned himself with the AFA as early as 2005, when AFA founder Don Wildmon was invited to participate in a signing ceremony celebrating the passage of Texas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as between “one man and one woman.” The governor’s signature is not required on constitutional amendments. In fact, the executive branch of Texas government can neither propose nor approve constitutional provisions. That didn’t stop Perry from conducting a media event designed to take credit for the amendment’s passage. Perry selected Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Worth as the venue for the event, despite concerns that holding an (albeit superfluous) government ceremony in a religious facility strayed dangerously close to violating the separation between church and state. Also invited to the ceremony was former Louisiana State Rep. Tony Perkins, president of another group on the SPLC’s list, the Family Research Council.