It appears the evolution of Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer event began even earlier than recently reported in Time, and is part of a wider strategy by influential conservative Christian figures to unseat President Barack Obama in 2012.
After Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches wrote that Perry’s rally seemed reminiscent of televangelist James Robison’s efforts to mobilize conservative Christians to support Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George W. Bush in 2000, the author of what Posner described as one of the most “under noticed” religion stories of the campaign season helped strengthen the connection.
In a two-part series, Ethics Daily contributing editor Brian Kaylor reveals closed-door meetings called last month by Robison in the Fort Worth suburb of Euless, bringing together about 80 pastors and conservative Christian leaders.
With the aim of plotting to oust Obama, the leaders met not just on the phone call recounted in TIME, but in person on June 20-21, after earlier rounds of secretive gatherings September 2010 in Dallas. Robison also held two conference calls in March with 35 right-wing Christian leaders.
Many of the leaders Ethics Daily reported attended those closed-door meetings are also sponsors of Perry’s prayer rally planned in August. (Today, Robison included a list of those who attended on his blog.)
They include event leadership figures Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, the controversial host organization of Perry’s prayer rally; influential conservative activist David Lane, who serves as the event’s national finance chairman; Jim Garlow, in charge of the rally’s “national church mobilization” efforts; former Republican U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen, the government “mobilization” leader; and program endorsers Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Jacob Aranza, a minister who, Ethics Daily said, “helped popularize the theory that rock ’n’ roll music included backmasked messages promoting drug use and sex,” in the 80s.
Robison had been pushing for a governor to take up his prayer call, Posner writes, arguing that “we need our governors, our state leaders, our national leaders, really come together in real serious prayer because we need answers from above.” And as revealed to Kaylor, Ohio Governor John Kasich urged Robison to pick Perry because he was “the governor that had been in leadership long enough that [he] could call a prayer meeting.”
The authors lay out Robison’s pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-smaller government record, opposed to same-sex marriage and in favor of defending the fight against “Radical Islam.” Though Robison said the meetings are “intended to be spiritual, not political” he admitted to “political implications” of the gathering, “including issues involving political elections.”
“This is not a political gathering; it is a gathering for a spiritual awakening that will affect every area of life and culture,” Robison told Ethics Daily. “We’re not trying to organize some power base. We’re trying to release the power that affects every other base of influence and power.”
Kalyor traces the political subtext apparent on Robison’s TV ministry show, “Life Today”:
“I believe we’ve got about a 12- to 18-month, 24-month period at the most, really less than that, where we’re going to literally have to turn the ship of state away from the hidden dangers, like hidden underwater iceberg edges and the visible, to turn away and head to a safe course, safe harbor with a captain and crew in place over all that will make necessary course corrections to keep us in a secure safe place,” said Robison to Jay Richards, who attended both meetings and played a major role in the conference calls.