The Austin Chronicle has begun tweeting links to old articles about Rick Perry, like this one from 2005 when Perry spoke at a “Texas Restoration Project” with a gaggle of anti-gay Religious Right activists:
A source who attended the event spoke to the Chronicle but requested anonymity because he serves in a local congregation and was sensitive to its politically diverse viewpoints. He recorded the event and provided the audiotape to the Texas Freedom Network, which in turn provided copies to the media.
Millionaire San Antonio conservative James Leininger was in attendance, as was East Texas chicken tycoon Bo Pilgrim, who introduced the governor. The two are among Perry’s most generous campaign donors, most recently chipping in $50,000 apiece to the governor’s re-election campaign, according to state Ethics Commission filings.
Though the audiotape is of poor quality, there is no mistaking the fever-pitched gay-bashing theme of most of the speeches. The group is fashioned after a similar evangelical organization in Ohio that worked to pass that state’s marriage amendment in November and helped produce a narrow victory there for President Bush. Critics accuse the Ohio group of operating in tandem with the Bush presidential campaign, managed by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, now running for Ohio governor in 2006. Blackwell was one of the featured speakers in Austin. Other guests who spoke in Austin included two key players in the Republican Party of Texas – Vice Chair David Barton, a self-described Christian nationalist, and former executive director Susan Weddington, who now heads Perry’s faith-based initiatives program. Weddington called Perry “a spiritual giant.”
Additionally, Ohio evangelical Pastor Rod Parsley lambasted the “homosexual agenda” and railed against Islam; Arlington minister Dwight McKissic – other than Blackwell, apparently the only African-American speaker at the event – delivered a hellfire condemnation of gays and lesbians, climaxing his address with the biblical story of the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and declaring, “God has another match!” The crowd roared. “He said the most horrible things,” the attendee said. “He was the most difficult to listen to.”
Kelly Shackelford, who heads the Plano-based Free Market Foundation, may have stolen Perry’s thunder in being the first to announce the governor’s choice to fill the vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court – Don Willett, who was seated in the audience. Shackelford introduced Willett as a “strong believer in Jesus Christ. … I have no doubt where this man stands on any issue.” Shackelford urged pastors to start organizing support for the upcoming constitutional election. “The other side is very organized,” he said of the “No Nonsense in November” campaign, which opposes the amendment. “They are out there working in your communities.”
Perry steered clear of directly incendiary comments, but left no doubt where he stands on the referendum. “For the record,” he said, “this is one Texan who’s going to be voting to protect the family unit this November by voting to preserve the institution of marriage between one man and one woman.” Afterward, someone asked the governor what they could do to help him – the closest anyone came to mentioning his re-election campaign. Perry thought a moment before responding.
“Pray for me.”
If the names of the participants sound familiar, there is a reason for that: many of them also endorsed Perry’s recent prayer rally, including David Barton, Dwight McKissic, and Kelly Shackelford.
In fact, these Restoration Project events are organized by David Lane, who was not only responsible for the recent similar Rediscover God In America conference, but just so happened to also serve as the National Finance Chairman of Perry’s The Response prayer rally.
Perry has been attending these distinctly political Restoration Project events for several years and then partnered with many of these very same activists in organizing his recent prayer rally … all while bogusly insisting that the event was distinctly non-political.