By Sandhya Bathija
Religious Right folks can be sneaky, that’s for sure.
They know the best way to surreptitiously influence elections: hold an event at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas; say it’s about prayer not politics; collect thousands of email addresses through the event’s registration process; and two weeks later, send out a mass email urging attendees to show up at the polls and recruit others to go along.
I was fortunate enough to be one of those who received this enticing email after registering and attending “The Response,” the fundamentalist prayer-and-fasting service put on Aug. 6 by the American Family Association (AFA) and allies at the behest of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
In the message, which showed up in my junk email filter yesterday, AFA founder Don Wildmon told registrants about Champion the Vote (CTV), a “friend” of AFA whose goal is to register five million “conservative Christians” who will vote according to “the Biblical worldview” in 2012.
The email reminds us that “[o]nly half of the Christians in the United States are registered to vote. Imagine the impact we could make on the future of America if these Christians made their voices heard in the voting booth!” (Remember, when Wildmon uses the word “Christian,” he doesn’t mean the vast majority of members of that faith; he’s talking about fundamentalists who share his theocratic ambitions.)
Well, so much for The Response not being about politics, as the AFA and Perry so adamantly claimed. They said this was only about prayer.
HA! Funny how it doesn’t take long before the truth really comes out.
Still, Eric Bearse, a spokesman with The Response and who is now with the Perry presidential campaign, says that the prayer extravaganza never had a political purpose.
“The Perry campaign hasn’t used any of the data from the event for any type of political purpose,” Bearse told the Houston Chronicle. “The AFA sending out an email to register people – if that is political, then I guess so is the activity of the secretary of states’ offices in all 50 states.”
Ummm, sorry, Eric! A national campaign to sign up fundamentalist voters to cast ballots as a bloc for “biblical” candidates is quite different from voter registration offices run by our secretaries of state!
Americans United has been a leading critic of The Response since the day we first heard about it, calling it out for being a church-state separation infringement and a shameless political stunt to energize the Religious Right faithful in advance of the 2012 elections.
My fellow Response attendee, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, also received the friendly “get out the vote” email reminder and has this to say:
“This event was a total fraud. It wasn’t about spirituality; it was about partisan politics and electing people who share the Religious Right’s extreme agenda. This email is proof. When Don Wildmon says he wants to activate millions of Americans who will vote a ‘biblical worldview’ in 2012, he means one thing: he wants fundamentalist Christians to control the government and impose their religious beliefs on everyone. Americans who believe in diversity and equality better sit up and take notice.”