Rick Perry: The True Believer

There are few politicians in office today that can rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s willingness to publicly associate himself with the Religious Right – and not just the “mainstream” groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, but with fringe, B-list figures like David Barton and Kelly Shackelford and groups like the Texas Restoration Project.

To this ever-growing list we can now add people like Rick Scarborough of Vision America and groups such as the US Pastor Council:

Today, Perry will continue his appeal to evangelicals at a closed-door session with Texas pastors in Austin. That event is being sponsored by the US Pastor Council, which wants to get preachers more involved in politics.

Headlining the event will be East Texas evangelist Rick Scarborough, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and abortion. Scarborough is backing Perry and has denounced Hutchison, who supports the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

It’s exactly the kind of group that Perry has been trying to woo in advance of next year’s GOP primary. Four years ago, when Hutchison was making noise about challenging him, Perry actively helped the Texas Restoration Project, another network of evangelical ministers that the governor’s political team saw as potentially helpful.

Scarborough’s support for Perry is rooted largely in his opposition to the primary challenge being mounted by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and, considering that Perry’s chances of beating her are looking a little questionable, this appears to be part of his effort to do all he can to sew up support from the Religious Right heading into the primary.

Still, it is rather remarkable that anyone running for public office would willingly associate themselves with the likes of Scarborough – did he learn nothing from Mike Huckabee?

Scarborough, a self-described “Christocrat” heads Vision America and, when he’s not out palling around with Alan Keys, has a penchant for suggesting that evangelical leaders are dying off because the nation has turned its back on God, suggesting that Christians will have “the blood of martyrs on [their] hands“if they don’t oppose hate crimes legislation, blaming “the church” for just standing by and allowing the election of “unrighteous leaders” in 2006, saying that opponents of the War in Iraq are committing treason, organizing conferences designed to highlight the “War on Christians and Values Voters,” and penning books entitled “Liberalism Kills Kids” among other things.

But if Perry is going to associate himself with people like Barton and Scarborough, it only makes sense that he’d willingly affiliate himself with the US Pastor Council as well – maybe he’ll even sign their “Pastors’ Declaration of Godly Citizenship” [PDF]:

I believe that all authorities are subordinate to God, including family, church and government authorities, therefore the actions and decisions of each will be accountable to Him.

I believe that the church has a unique and sacred role in proclaiming God’s principles to leaders of a city, state and nation, with government limited to its Biblical and Constitutional purpose.

I believe that all innocent life from conception to natural death must be protected and valued by the people and our government to the fullest extent of the law as the highest priority of government.

I believe that marriage is a God-created relationship as the lifetime union of one natural man and one natural woman for the blessing of both, the good of the people and the foundation of the family for legitimate procreation.

I believe that the traditional, nuclear family of a married father and mother raising their children in a nurturing and protective environment is the essential building block of a stable community and a nation; it therefore must be promoted and protected by both church and state.

Most politicians seeking re-election wouldn’t be caught dead rubbing shoulders with these types of fringe right-wing groups, but Rick Perry does so openly and willingly – and not because he is pandering and merely seeking their support, but because he is a true believer who actually shares their agenda.