John Benefiel, the head of the Heartland Apostolic Reformation Network and one of the official endorsers of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response prayer rally, says that Washington D.C. is under a curse from God because the Founders named it in honor of the goddess Columbia. Benefiel, who calls the Statue of Liberty a “demonic idol” and homosexuality an Illuminati plot, blames the country’s political problems on the District of Columbia’s supposedly pagan foundations.
In an August 2010 sermon, Benefiel claimed to have the “spiritual authority” to “divorce Baal” from Washington and said that he had “renamed the District of Columbia the District of Christ.” He explained: “I tell you I have more authority than the U.S. Congress does, see I guarantee you that that will not forever be called the District of Columbia, it will be changed by somebody, it will be changed by the Lord when He comes back or our Congress.”
But Gov. Perry isn’t Benefiel’s only powerful political connection. In a speech before the 2010 election, he said that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who was one of the most conservative members of Congress prior to her election as governor, is one of his followers who he led “into the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Benefiel goes on to say that Oklahoma’s Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt and House Speaker Kris Steele had all “come to us for prayer”: