Behind the Scenes, Christian Right Leaders Rally Behind Rick Perry

In early June, TIME has learned, a group of prominent figures on the Christian Right held a conference call to discuss their dissatisfaction with the current GOP presidential field, and agreed that Rick Perry would be their preferred candidate if he entered the race. Among those on the call were Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; David Barton, the Texas activist and go-to historian for the Christian Right; and John Hagee, the controversial San Antonio pastor whose endorsement John McCain rejected in 2008.

Religious conservatives have often played a substantial role in choosing past Republican nominees, but leaders on the Christian Right have been conspicuously quiet so far in this campaign season. Privately, however, they are enthusiastic about Perry and are encouraging the Texas governor to throw his ten-gallon hat into the ring.


Sarah Posner of Religious Dispatches recently outlined Perry’s social conservative bona fides and they’re impressive:

*Signed a gay marriage ban into law at a Christian school in Fort Worth with evangelical heavyweights Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Rod Parsley (Ohio mega-church pastor), and Don Wildmon (American Family Association) in attendance

*The Sunday before his 2006 re-election, Perry attended Cornerstone Church and sat by the side of controversial pastor John Hagee (in 2008, John McCain had to reject Hagee’s endorsement after critics pointed out the pastor’s many extreme statements, including calling the Catholic Church “the whore of Babylon”)

*Supported and was a primary beneficiary of the Texas Restoration Project, an effort to increase the electoral involvement of conservative pastors

All of this, however, pales beside Perry’s current project–a Christian all-day prayer event called “The Response” on August 6 in Houston. The governor is sponsoring the event along with the American Family Association, which is footing the estimated $1.5 million tab for the gathering. The Response is intended for Christians only, although one spokesman said that if people of other faiths attend, he hopes they will see the light and “seek out the living Christ” for their lives.

Perry has been doing a lot of praying in the past year. On the morning of his inauguration to a new term as governor, he appeared at a prayer breakfast attended by some Christian Right heavyweights who have been following the Texan’s activities on their behalf. “People flew in from across the country for this,” said one participant. The breakfast was organized by David Lane, an activist from California who has set up “Pastor Policy Briefings” in at least 14 states over the past several years that have been attended by nearly 10,000 pastors. Doug Wead, a conservative historian who is close to the Bush family, described Lane this way on his blog: “Lane is the mysterious, behind the scenes, evangelical kingmaker who stormed into Iowa in 2008 and tilted the whole thing from Romney to Huckabee.”

Lane is the man to have on your team if you want to organize religious conservatives to support your campaign. And he’s the one behind that June conference call in which key players of the Christian Right decided to do just that for Rick Perry.

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