Eric Folkerth

Local clergy criticize governor’s exclusive approach

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

With evangelical zeal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped into the presidential race this week. Local clergy weighed in with their reaction.

The Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor at the Cathedral of Hope, said that it’s appropriate for people running for public office to hold onto their faith beliefs.

“But when you’re elected, you represent everyone,” she said.

She objected to Perry aligning himself with evangelicals to the exclusion of others and with the American Family Association, an organization identified as a hate group.

“He’s aligning himself with people who do damage to others, and that’s not the role of an elected official,” she said.

She said the harm extends beyond the LGBT community, and she wondered whether it’s a winning strategy since recent polls show a majority of Americans believe in equality.

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of heavily gay Northaven United Methodist Church said, “It’s certainly interesting how quickly he’s getting traction.”

While Perry held his recent day of prayer in Houston, Folkerth was part of a group that gathered at Pegasus Park to express concerns at how non-inclusive the event was.

Perry is Methodist.

“As a part of our tradition, I would hope he would remember and respect that United Methodists are deeply respectful of other Christians and people of other faiths,” Folkerth said.

Rabbi Steve Fisch of Congregation Beth El Binah — the local gay Jewish congregation — wasn’t as circumspect with his assessment of the Perry candidacy.

“I don’t think you can print my reaction,” said Fisch.

In his announcement speech, Perry said if he becomes president, the U.S. will be an unqualified ally of Israel.

Fisch said that’s typical of evangelical Christians because the gathering of Jews in Israel is a precursor to the Messianic Age.

“We, as Jews, don’t believe that Israel is a precursor to anything,” he said. “Israel should be supported as a country.”

He said Perry wants to make the U.S. into a Christian country.

“That’s offensive to me as a rabbi and Jewish leader,” he said.

Concerning Perry’s day of prayer, Fisch said having a prayer meeting and paying for it with private funds is fine.

“But if any state funds were used, that clearly contravenes the spirit and the letter of separation of church and state,” he said.