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Rick Perry's Shady Connections to Extremist Right-Wing Pastors

Perry has long cultivated ties to evangelical leaders who hold extreme views.


The following article first appeared in  Mother Jones. For more great content from Mother Jones, sign up for their  free email updates here.

At the  Values Voters Summit earlier this month, Rick Perry and his sputtering campaign got plenty of attention—but not for the reasons the candidate would have liked. It was the Texas governor's association with a controversial religious leader that made headlines, after  Robert Jeffress, a Dallas Pastor who introduced (and endorsed) Perry at the event, said that conservative voters should reject Mitt Romney because  he belongs to a "cult" (the Mormon church).


It wasn't the first time Perry shared a staged with a controversial religious figure. Perry has long cultivated ties to evangelical leaders who hold extreme views, including Rod Parsley, an Ohio megachurch pastor whose incendiary comments about Islam—he said it must be "destroyed"—forced Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to  disavow Parsley's endorsement during the 2008 presidential race.

The relationship between Perry and Parsley began in 2005, when Perry held a special signing ceremony for two new measures of importance to religious conservatives: a law that required parental consent for teenage girls to obtain abortions, and a constitutional amendment, which was up for a vote that November, to ban gay marriage. Perry booked a Fort Worth Christian school for the occasion, and invited social conservative leaders—including Parsley—to attend the event.

About 600 Christian conservative activists showed up; the  New York Times  reported that the event "resembled a pep rally." The Perry re-election campaign sent an email blast to supporters urging them to "fill this location with pro-family Christian friends who can celebrate with us."

Parsley took the podium before Perry, sermonizing on the evils of homosexuality. "Only 1 percent of the homosexual population in America will die of old age," he explained. "The average life expectancy for a homosexual in the United States of America is 43 years of age. A lesbian can only expect to live to be 45 years of age. Homosexuals represent 2 percent of the population, yet today they're carrying 60 percent of the known cases of syphilis."

As the LGBT weekly  Dallas Voice  reported, those statistics didn't come out of thin air. They were plucked from a debunked report by the conservative Christian Family Policy Institute. (The report's author, Paul Cameron, had been kicked out of the American Psychological Association more than a decade earlier for his persistent distortion of research.)

With Perry looking on, Parsley warned that "we are not to sacrifice our children on the altar of sexual lust of a few," and that gay sex was a "veritable breeding ground of disease"; then he praised the governor for his tireless work battling the gay agenda.

Perry allowed Parsley's inflammatory remarks to pass without comment. When the Texas governor later came under criticism from church-state watchdog groups for appearing alongside Parsley and other controversial speakers, Perry and his aides claims these complaints were part of a liberal campaign to ban religion from the public square.

Later that year, in an effort to build momentum for his re-election bid, Perry-friendly Evangelical leaders—including popular pseudo-historian David Barton—convened a series of six forums between the governor and prominent pastors, called the Texas Restoration Project. The project was modeled after Restoration Ohio, a program devised in 2004 by Parsley and others to mobilize Christian voters for the presidential election. (That project contributed to George W. Bush's 2004 win in Ohio.)

During an impassioned address at a Restoration Project forum in August 2005, Parsley switched his focus from the gay agenda to Islam. "If you want to really get in trouble, read the largest chapter of the book and start quoting it," he said, referring to his 2005 book Silent No More . "We tell you the truth. It's on Islam. It's called 'The Deception of Allah.'"

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