Breaking news: Rick Perry prays

When I first read about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s upcoming prayer event, I thought “Meh, PR event. Who cares?” Little did I realize that the media would freak out over it.

Today’s the big day, and even though Perry is not speaking at the public, it’s gained him quite the media attention. It’s hard to know why the coverage has gotten out of control.

People are protesting, but that’s a nice way for them to get automatic media attention, right? It’s specifically Christian, but it’s not paid with taxpayer money, right? Perry might run for president, but a lot of people are running for president, right? Someone please help me understand the news value of this event, because we are seeing some embarrassing media coverage come out of this.

Let’s start with NPR (bolded phrases are my own to illustrate some loaded language).

While the governor claims it’s nothing more than a Christian prayer rally, the event has touched off a holy war among critics, who claim it is Jesus-exclusive and political.

Then there’s some misinformation.

Among prominent religious leaders expected to speak: James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

Um, did you miss the memo that Dobson left Focus and started his own show? Oh yes, there’s a correction at the top, but it illustrates that the reporter must be new to religion coverage.

The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes the AFA as a hate group because of its fierce anti-gay agenda.

Does the Southern Poverty Law Center actually set the standard for hate groups? What are some examples that they cite?

The Associated Press leads off with some vague description of Perry’s own religious views.

Openly and deeply religious, Texas Gov. Rick Perry organized what seemed like a slam-dunk event for a politician in a state where religion and politics walk hand in hand: He would fill Houston’s Reliant Stadium with fellow believers in a seven-hour session of Christian atonement by some of the nation’s most conservative preachers, exhorting believers to pray about the nation’s moral decline.

Um, how is he openly and deeply religious? Where does he attend church?

The gathering could give the Texas governor a chance to further demonstrate his bona fides with the Republican Party’s social conservatives, who are being aggressively courted by several candidates already in the race. Others worry a rally of Christian fundamentalism, and one involving several controversial religious organizations, could alienate independent voters and conservatives who are more focused on economic issues.

So as long as you say “others worry,” then it’s okay to go against AP style on “fundamentalism”?

Locally, the Dallas Morning News published a piece with the headline, “Rick Perry says he doesn’t endorse extremists participating in prayer meeting.” I just assume that politicians attend lots and lots of functions and don’t necessarily endorse every one of them, but I missed the expectation here. Here’s the Houston Chronicle‘s piece:

Dubbed “The Response,” the all-day event is attracting an inordinate amount of attention, not only because of the governor’s presidential ambitions, but also because of his embrace of Christian groups and leaders known for their theocratic tendencies, fringe beliefs and intolerance toward nonbelievers.

Do any of the leaders coming to this event embrace theocracy? Or is this just because they oppose gay marriage and abortion (hardly fringe beliefs)? How do they act intolerant toward nonbelievers?

Noting that Perry himself has expressed the conviction that he is, perhaps, “called” to the presidency, they contend that the prayer event is prelude to his White House pilgrimage.

The reporter doesn’t explain the context of when he said he felt “called” to the presidency or that he walked back on that statement later (referencing how he can feel called by his mother). Do these supporters back him politically, or do they just support his idea of public prayer?

Perry’s own political alliance with fundamentalist pastors has its antecedents in ties forged some years ago.

So he hasn’t come into religious ties until recently (never explained further) but he forged the fundamentalist ties some years ago? Let’s review: Associated Press style says avoid the term fundamentalist.

The only person that the reporter finds to support him is a former aide. It’s like he is trying to only do a perfunctory attempt at “balance.” Surely someone can speak to larger role of public prayer in politics?

The same paper ran a much more calm, informative piece from Kate Shellnutt* (and, if you want to follow the prayer event, follow her live tweets and liveblog). Please let us know what you find in post-event coverage, the good, bad and ugly.

Update: To be clear, I don’t think the media should ignore this event. I just think the coverage has been overblown and poorly executed. *This post has been updated to correct Kate Shellnutt’s name. My apologies.

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  • Nefreet

    From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website:

    “The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1,002 active hate groups in the United States in 2010. Only organizations and their chapters known to be active during 2010 are included.

    All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

    This list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.

    Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing. Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list. Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.”

    So, yes, groups such as the FRC and AFA are constituted as “hate groups” for their consistent demonization and intolerance of LGBT people and LGBT rights advances.

    Just FYI.

  • David

    “Someone please help me understand the news value of this event”

    It is because he said only supernatural intervention could save this country. Few people have enough faith to believe that, and so they object to a potential president who has no plan except to hope and pray and wish really hard that things might get better.

    Since the Enlightenment, many people prefer rational plans to irrational, faith-based hopes and wishes. At least, that is my theory.

  • Jim

    Its a big deal because our constitution and it’s creators knew it was a big deal. No politics in religion, no religion in politics.

  • bob

    Just look who is invited and who is paying. A person who hates Catholics. Are they really whores as he has call them? Should only Christians have 1st amendment rights as the people who are paying for this say?
    Sorry rick you now have a Rev. Right problem

  • Tim

    You’re right – it isn’t news. Rick Perry is sanctimonious, hypocritical, empathy-deficient, Texan mediocrity who is running for president. Been there, done that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “It’s hard to know why the coverage has gotten out of control.”

    I know I like to poke at Get Religion for being dominated by (theologically) conservative Christians now and then, but even a basic, cursory, look at endorsers and organizers of this event shows some deeply problematic strains of Christianity on display here. Sadly, most of that analysis has been happening outside of the mainstream media spotlight.

    “I just assume that politicians attend lots and lots of functions and don’t necessarily endorse every one of them, but I missed the expectation here.”

    Rick Perry isn’t just “attending” this event, he’s literally the face of it. The prime mover, if you will. This isn’t some pancake breakfast, it’s widely acknowledged on-ramp for his political ambitions. Now folks can argue about the depth of his political/theological involvement with the endorsers and co-organizers of The Response, but to try to define him as simply an attendee is revisionism.

    “Someone please help me understand the news value of this event…”

    My jaw dropped a little at this. A likely presidential candidate, who many pundits and big-name endorsers are hoping jumps into the race, pastes his name and reputation onto a massive Christian prayer rally involving a who’s who of heavy hitters among politically active conservative Christians and you can’t understand the news value? Are you being facetious? Now maybe we can argue that his involvement, and this event, isn’t controversial, but to ask if it has news value?

  • MKO

    The August 2011 Texas Monthly says “Perry is a hard man. He is the kind of politician who would rather be feared than loved—or respected. And he has gotten his wish.” (http://www.texasmonthly.com/2011-08-01/btl.php)

    So this prayer rally tells us something about how he approaches both faith and politics. As a Christian, I can’t say that I find either very admirable.

  • Jerry

    One of the big reasons this event is news is Perry’s action as governor when he questioned science in favor of theology and appointed an anti-science Education chief who said that they need more “true conservative Christians” on the Education board.

    So his sponsorship of this even is absolutely important news because it reinforces what his policies would be as President based on his actions as Governor. And, as Bob wrote, this is Perry’s “Jeremiah Wright” situation and is as much a news event as Candidate Obama’s religious affiliation was.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Deleting comments right and left that have nothing to do with journalism. Thanks.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Again, we are not talking about how you feel about Gov. Perry but we are talking about good and bad journalism. Please include links to coverage you see as good or bad examples of how to cover this event.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Nefreet, you know what would be more helpful? Explain why the Southern Poverty Law Center lists AFA specifically as a hate group. Again, are they the standard for a hate group? They might be someone to note, but unless the article offers more specifics about why they are a hate group, it’s not very helpful to the reader.

  • Nefreet

    I believe I was clear in my original post:

    “groups such as the FRC and AFA are constituted as “hate groups” for their consistent demonization and intolerance of LGBT people and LGBT rights advances.”

  • Nefreet

    I’m not going to post their entire web content as a comment here. If anyone is interested in learning more about the Southern Poverty Law Center, here is their website:

    http://www.splcenter.org/who-we-are

  • Bill

    Sarah’s question is valid. Is the SPLC a non-partisan organization? Do they list “hate groups” on the left? Or does hate occur only on the right?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Bill,

    Reading the SPLC’s website could answer your questions.

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology

  • Nefreet

    The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) define hate groups in pretty much the same way. A hate group’s primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity which differs from that of the members of the organization. The SPLC has a broader list of hate groups than the ADL because the ADL only focuses on groups that advocate violence, but both are tracked by the FBI.

    Neither the SPLC or the ADL are partisan. Both are non-profit.

    I don’t know what your definition of “left” and “right” are, Bill, but typically more animosity is directed at minorities from extremist religious groups. More hate groups self-identify themselves as “Christian” if that is of any help.

  • asimon

    Brilliant analysis Sarah.

  • Dave G.

    Is the SPLC a non-partisan organization?

    Of course they are not. In this day and age, the better question is ‘is any organization non-partisan?’ And that includes some of the media outlets that should be asking the question in the first place.

    By the way, where is the journalism in some of these posts. I’m hearing a lot about how bad Perry sucks, but not much on why the journalism in question connects to it all.

    For my part, I watched CNN covering this. Shockingly, they seemed to come at it with an emphasis on those who were bothered. One thing I thought was interesting, the little quotes under the reporter kept including one that said ‘thousands of empty seats’ at the event. He even mentioned that there were empty seats – though I didn’t see thousands. I saw some near the stage near the top. But he said they were not going to be able to fill the 70 thousand plus seats in the arena. Since the stage looked like it cut about a third of the arena off, I would imagine it wouldn’t be able to fill all the seats since at least a portion of those 70 thousand would have been behind the staging. I thought that odd. Why would CNN even bother to mention it? Of course many concerts in stadiums that hold X amount of people can’t, or don’t even try, to fill the entire stadium because of simple stage construction. What was the issue, and why would CNN spend any time at all mentioning it, apart from apparently some of the critics of the event were mentioning it. And then, why not put it into some type of perspective?

  • Dave

    Do any of the leaders coming to this event embrace theocracy?

    One exhorts us to “quit electing Pagans” if we want to put this country back to rights. One is organizing “spiritual warfare” to change the name of the District of Columbia (a vile goddess figure, albeit an invention of the British press in the early 1700s) to “District of Christ.” That’s close for government work.

    Of course the point is well taken that NPR et al might document such stuff rather than rely on bald statements. But is that failure to get religion, or is it just bad (or cramped) journalism that affects all types of coverage?

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Nefreet, no I don’t think you were clear in your original post or in your follow-up. “Consistent demonization” means nothing to a reader. What readers need are specifics. So if reporters are going to draw on the SPLC, they should show examples of why they qualify, not make a blanket statement as though SPLC has the final say.

  • http://www.abbottepub.com/tyndale21gospels.html Stephen A.

    A potential Republican candidate for president – from Texas – is pandering to the Religious Right by going to a big prayer event. STOP THE PRESSES! Yeah, this is not news. At all.

    One could make (and some are making) a big deal out of John Hagee, who is virulently anti-Catholic and was denounced in 2008 by John McCain (a liberal Christian and liberal Republican, for what it’s worth) but that’s making hay out of nothing.

    The NPR story noted that and also gave voice to some other rather hysterical (but non-funny) “freak show” kind of comments from detractors. Again, I see this as the standard “point at the animals at the zoo” kind of behavior from liberals in the media who are ALSO pandering to a constituency.

    For the record, I wouldn’t have attended such a thing. I prefer ecumenical events. But the First Amendment and state Constitutions all allow freedom of expression. Even for Republicans, and even for governors.

    Dave says:

    One exhorts us to “quit electing Pagans” if we want to put this country back to rights.

    WHO are the pagans we have in office right now? 95-100% make claims to be Christians. I suspect some pagans may do a better job in office!

    And has any reporter asked why pagans don’t hold a huge gathering like this? Can they muster the numbers?

  • Mike O.

    One of the things that the NPR article misses and that the Houston Chronicles piece briefly touches on (I can’t pull up that AP article) is that back in April Governor Perry asked Texans to pray for rain to end the drought, but the drought only worsened.

    I bring this up because throughout history we have had politicians say if government does A it will result in B. Then when A happens and B doesn’t, the politician will say we need more A to assure B. This can be seen in Obama calling for a second stimulus when the first one failed. It can be seen when either party wants to raise sin taxes, and they will always claim that doing so will drastically lower cigarette usage when all evidence shows that doesn’t happen. It is a journalist’s job to ask someone proposing more of the same why it’s a good idea when it has already not worked.

    These articles should come out and say that Rick Perry’s mass prayer attempt in April showed no effect. The reporters should be specifically asking Rick Perry why he thinks this day of prayer and fasting will solve the different problems plaguing Texas when a similar event completely and utterly failed to resolve the drought issue. This is not to say that A can’t result in B, but if we want religious news to be on the same level as non-religious news these things need to be addressed. As GetReligion often notes journalists often fail to ask questions of a religious nature, and this is no exception.

  • Dave

    Stephen, the claim that we are electing Pagans is not mine but that of a sponsor of The Response.

    Pagans can turn out in significant numbers but do so to hold ritual in the woods, not politick.

  • Dan Crawford

    Frankly, I am appalled that a politician, a governor no less, is organizing a religious revival meeting. And there should be coverage about the governor’s intentions and the groups he invites. You may not like the news coverage because it focuses on groups you do not regard as extremist, but there is something rather frightening about a governor anointing himself as high priest and using religion for his own political purposes. (Let’s not kid ourselves about that.) People are somewhat annoyed that ministers play politics, but when politicians play religion, that needs to be followed closely. Better coverage, more “fair and balanced”, but these activities need full public exposure. I am amazed at those who think this this is a “no story”.

  • Nefreet

    Except, Sarah, the SPLC does have the final say. They are one of only two organizations that keeps tabs on hate groups in the U.S. I’m sorry you do not think I have been clear. I am not going to repeat every anti-gay email, speech, or rally they have hosted. If you would like to start your own hate group watch organization, please feel free. I’m sure your efforts would be welcomed. I fail to understand what else you want of me.

  • Nefreet

    It’s not like the SPLC read one anti-gay rant on an AFA website and immediately labeled them a hate group. It is the years of anti-gay sentiments and teachings that has earned them their coveted title.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Local coverage from Fort Worth included confusing references to crowd size, the obligatory inclusion of the protesters (“more than 50″), and several quotes from people who say they aren’t interested in politics. just prayer – one is not actually a Perry supporter. A pre-rally article also included a quote from a Baptist fellow:

    “I’m not a big fan of Rick Perry, but that is not what this is about. Any time there’s an opportunity to join together with God’s people to pray in this magnitude, I want to be there. God will hear. He will answer. I want to be a part of that.”

    I did get a chuckle out of this :

    But organizers and participants alike declared that they were leaving politics outside in a day of spiritualism devoted strictly to prayer, Scripture reading and Holy worship.

    Spiritualism indeed! :-)

    This puts me in mind of a thing I saw on television maybe 30 years ago. The dreaded Religious Right was the new thing and some channel played prayers from a Republican meeting, then from a Democrat meeting. The former woman prayed God would bless the country, the latter prayed for the Dem candidate to win. All of which is to say that a lot of criticism leveled at this event appears to be leftist projection.

    Heck, and I basically agree with Dan Crawford’s screed. I’m not a Perry fan, either, nor of this event.

  • David R

    Sarah,

    Thanks for the nudge for us to keep this media coverage-focused. From what I’ve seen and read, it appears the media has not done its homework on the theological perspective behind Perry’s organizing this event. We are not dealing here with a typical Lutheran understanding of God’s rule over the kingdom of power vs. kingdom of grace perspective. For Gov. Perry, the issue is how can Christians call upon God as in 2 Chron. 7:14 and invoke His blessing or correction on our land.

    If one listens to “Richard Land Live,” which I do purely as an observer, one will hear the first hand account from Gov. Perry being interviewed as to the purpose of the ent. Whether we like it or not is tangential, as is whether we agree with it or not. When I have heard the major media sources quote primarily nondeminational and Southern Baptist Convention press, it seems they are are nothearing the central reasons for the prayer event. For as son as many mainstream pundits quote the FRC or Focus On The Family, they immediately jump to their speculative notions without much analysis. This, as Ann Coulter shows in her new book, DEOMONIC, is evidence of mob behavior.

    It seems to me that much of the media has once again stumbled over their own misunderstands while covering Gov. Perry’s prayer event. Here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. If this were an interfaith event such as the travesty we saw at Yankee Staduim ten years ago, the mainstream media would laud its inclusivism. If Gov. Perry’s event were on par with the historicity of Pope Benedict XVI’s service in New York some years, the talking points would be different.

    But, Gov. Perry is not teh head of a denomination. Nor is he intensionally brewing up inclusivism. Instead, he is, as a U.S. citizen exercising his first amendment right of calling for this overtly public display of worship. The fact that he is a politican potentially running for public office is not the primary source of the oppositional media coverage. It’s religion minus the liberal bent of social justice, as in some churches’ role in the civil rights movement. The prayer event is devoid of someone breaking the mold of a historically traditional denomination. We saw, after all, the media swoon when Jeffers-Shory was installed as the head of the Episcapal Church. She is pro-gay and pro-women-in-the-ministry. So,she breaks conventions, which the major networks flocked to in her case.

    I apologize for this being long-winded. But, the media’s misunderstanding the context of Hob. Perry’s call to prayer has many dimmensions. And, his potential run for the US Presidency only compounds the issue.

  • mer

    The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded as a civil rights law firm that then grew to represent was they believed to be victims of hate groups. They’ve primarily gained notice through their cases against racists organizations. They tend to label certain organizations “hate groups” off their similarity to racist groups like the KKK. I’m not sure who else could be prepared to label someone a hate group.

  • BC

    “Do any of the leaders coming to this event embrace theocracy?”

    Have you paid attention to the speeches and writings of David Barton and the AFA over the years? They reject separation of church and state. They want public prayers, but protested when a Hindu prayed at the Senate–they don’t want that kind of prayer. The AFA blog has said Muslims should not serve in the military and mosques should not be built and that the first amendment was meant for Christians. These folks want to return to the glory days of Puritan Boston–they live as if Roger Williams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison never existed. Yes, it is theocracy they want.

  • Pamela Zohar

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/american-family-association

    I rather enjoyed the AFA statement that Native Americans would be better off if they became Christians (most NA in fact HAVE become Christian, and it doesn’t seem to have made them any wealthier).

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Jason Pitzl-Waters –

    Rick Perry isn’t just “attending” this event, he’s literally the face of it… to try to define him as simply an attendee is revisionism.

    Rather an important point, and it’s kind of surprising that Sarah missed this. Perhaps the coverage should have emphasized that more?

  • David R

    Ray,

    Sarah did not miss that angle, as far as the media coverage is concerned. She is not denying that Gov. Perry is at the heart and center of the event he hosted.

    I think some of the media (Fox News, etc.) has gone out of their way to show he is the organizer and vocal spokesman for the event.

    Yes, it some of the attendees appear to advocate a stance toward a “theocracy,” or at least a rose-colored vision of America’s past. However, the point from a media coverage angle is that most reporters are not getting the objective reasons for it. Instead, they are following theconjectures like bees buzzing toward honey. The major question many are asking is whether Perry’s motivations during this event will potentially be his modus operndi in the White House.

    Yet, it is disheartening to see how many are dissatisfied with the amount of explanation coming from Gov. Perry, et al.

    That’s one reason we wonder wh this thing newsworthy in the first place–when folks can’t determine objectively the reasons for it before leaping to their conjectures.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    WHO are the pagans we have in office right now?

    Dan Halloran, New York City Council. And he is a Republican. And a libertarian. And of course, it was the Democrats who made a campaign issue of his religion. (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/candidates-religion-is-point-of-contention-in-queens-race/)

  • http://kingslynn.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    SPLC’s “hate group” list has been endlessly controversial in Wikipedia, and there was a long battle on the FRC article about whether to even mention it (and similar argument in the AFA article about how much to play it up).

    The Atlantic had an article on this too, and while some of the “wrong” notes get sounded in it, they spend a lot less time trying to portray the craziness of Perry’ potential boosters, and more time trying to characterize his potential appeal. And they get major GR points for citing the scriptures he read!

  • Pamela Zohar

    New York Times, today online –

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/us/politics/07prayer.html?hpw

    seemed like a reasonably good article to me, but I’m not a journalist. Quotes from pro and con, mentioned which denom Rick Perry belongs to/attends, and so forth. What do you think?

  • Jeffrey

    This coverage definitely has an inside/outside the bubble effect. For those inside the Evangelical bubble, this all seems harmless as Sarah describes. For everyone else–and the media– there are huge stories going in here and being told “how dare you criticize” or raise questions about the event seems bizarre. I’m still a little surprised Sarah thought it was only mildly newsworthy.

  • Pamela Zohar

    Oh it’s definitely newsworthy these days. Any time any person hints at a run for the presidency, his or her every move becomes newsworthy, especially if that move involves controversial social matters – like religion.

    I’m also a little surprised that Sarah thought this major prayer breakfast involving several controversial (at least MODERATELY so) organizations’ sponsorships, wasn’t newsworthy. Perry is thinking about running for president. Perry is (basically) holding a major religious event which is at least less than even-handed – even for Texas. Why isn’t that news?

    Of course, I’m also a little surprised that Sarah doesn’t seem to have heard of the SPLC, which has been around for a good forty years or more, and is pretty well-known, I would think, for breaking the KKK in court in a case concerning a lynching, where the KKK got OFF on murder charges in criminal court, but convicted in CIVIL court for violating the rights of the man that was murdered.

    The ‘hate list’ is lengthy, but the definition which the SPLC uses involves the SELF-descriptions of the groups, not something the SPLC arbitrarily decides. If a group sets itself up and describes itself as ‘against’ something, the SPLC takes them at their word.

  • Nathan Rein

    It’s my impression that for decades, the SPLC has been considered pretty much the go-to resource regarding research on hate groups in the U.S. I’m a little baffled that you’d fault a journalist for citing their work. To me it seems comparable to quoting a ratings agency when talking about the creditworthiness of a corporation.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Well, I finally got something like a number present. Two numbers, actually. From The New York Times article cited above:

    Organizers for the event, called The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis, estimated that more than 30,000 people were at Reliant Stadium when Mr. Perry spoke. The seating capacity is 71,500, and tens of thousands of seats in the upper decks were empty.

    Whatever The Texas Tribune might be, it says “more than 30,000″.

    Perry’s prayer, as quoted in The Chicago Tribune:

    “Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government and, as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that, we cry out for your forgiveness,” said Perry, praying with hands clasped.

    “Father, we pray for our president, that you would impart your wisdom upon him, that you would guard his family,” the governor said.

    Of course, we all know that what he really meant was “God, get me elected president”. :-)

    The Trib, btw, went with a number of “more than 15,000″, as did The LA Times. Tellingly, the LA Times story online is under the heading “Politics Now”.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Pamela, do not misunderstand me. Of course I know and have read things from the SPLC. I’m just pointing out that they might not be the arbiters of what is a hate group. They are one resource.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Passing by, thanks so much for the links and updates – this is helpful.

  • mer

    Sarah, why would you think SPLC isn’t an arbiter of what is a hate group? The FBI considers it to be a valuable resource for such a designation.

    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/civilrights/hate_crimes/hate_crimes

  • Julia

    A hate group’s primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice

    There are some groups listed as hate groups who have different primary purposes than hate. Is Focus on the Family’s PRIMARY PURPOSE hostility toward gays?

  • Sibyl

    As a palate cleanser and a bit of encouragement, I thought you might like to read a brief synopsis of this event from a Biblical Christian’s perspective. The writer is a medical doctor, a priest’s wife, and runs an Anglican intercessory prayer blog:
    http://anglicanprayer.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/a-response-to-the-response/

  • http://www.GodsNextBigMove.com Applied Faith Underground

    Gov Rick Perry should be commended for staging the prayer against the nation’s moral decline but unfortunately it won’t have any affect. Now here me out before you go all Charlie Sheen on me. We know that prayer accomplishes much, however, along with prayer God is expecting us act with the spirit of Christ in the underpinnings of our nation.

    If we know God manifests His will through His people, then the absence of morality is in equal portion to the absence of Christ-like love thus the root cause of the moral decline is; your truly. It cannot be the persistence of evil because we know love always defeats evil as witnessed most acutely in the resurrection. We also know nature abhors a vacuum, thus our issues and concerns show up where our leadership is weakest.

    So if we hold ourselves accountable for the results we must then ask, why is our leadership showing up so inept against the moral decline of our nation?

    When Christ hastened us to be in the world but not of the world, he wanted us to stay true to the Word and not some worldly group or personality pimping God for their own purposes. When our laws and ways of being are more aligned with shoring up a worldly view than Christ-like love, our leadership is misaligned, our message becomes disingenuous and our actions ineffective allowing the elements of moral decline to grow like kudzu.

    I submit to you the moment we capitulate by saying this bad thing is taking over because of “those people” or the moment we allow fear to be the driving force for our actions, we surrender our God appointed authority over the world and we are mere sounding gongs. This is evidenced in how we have surrendered our personal wealth potential to the current economic climate or which party is in the oval office. In short there is ample evidence to suggest that we have confused self-righteousness with His righteousness.

    So we can pray until the cows come home, but until we as believers start showing up in the world with Christ-like transformational love, moral decline is the steady state condition. That is until God removes His hand from us completely then things will really get interesting.

    But all is not lost. He has already provided us with all we need to experience a dramatic turnaround. His redemptive nature is still with us. We need just renew our minds in Him, believe in the blessings and renew the underpinnings of a great society by applying the wisdom of the word (not the world) in our interactions with others.

    So what do you think? Are we as believers accountable for the moral decline of our nation or is it those people?

    Radical Truth
    Applied Faith Underground

  • donatella

    There are some groups listed as hate groups who have different primary purposes than hate. Is Focus on the Family’s PRIMARY PURPOSE hostility toward gays?

    This is a misleading question. The SPLC is careful to cite the SPLC as an anti-gay group which is not a hate group precisely because it has moderated its focus and tactics.

    the SPLC was charitable and scrupulous enough to do so in spite of the fact that James Dobson ran FOF in a way that would have allowed FOF to be classified as a hate group. Specifically, according to C. Everett Koop, Dobson deliberately misrepresented how HIV is transmitted so that Dobson
    could incite anti-gay animus. Koop called Dobson’s action’s reprehensible and homophobic.

    Now, do I have to explain why the former surgeon general for the Reagan administration should be considered a medical authority?

  • http://www.abbottepub.com/tyndale21gospels.html Stephen A.

    Dave (#23) and others who voted down my comment above, I was definitely not accusing you of making the statement that “we are electing Pagans” (it was clear that you were referring to the article) I was noting that reporters should challenge that comment, as they should have challenged many others in this and other such assertions in news stories, since I’m aware of exactly zero pagans in public office, at least I know of none who have been willing to publicly expose their beliefs to ridicule and abuse. I’m sure there are some.

  • Jeff

    I was just reading some psalms and came across Psalm 20: 7. Some trust in chariots and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

    Seems as if Rick Perry is doing this. And we have learned by his actions that lots of people don’t really want God involved. We can analyze and analyze but that doesn’t seem to change peoples’ minds. Maybe God is trying to show us something.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    David R –

    Sarah… is not denying that Gov. Perry is at the heart and center of the event he hosted.

    I suppose she wasn’t ‘denying’ it. But by saying, “politicians attend lots and lots of functions and don’t necessarily endorse every one of them”, she was hardly acknowledging it, either.

  • Dave

    Stephen, I did not vote down your comment. I understood what you were saying and just wanted to make clear what I’d been saying. Sorry if I was not clear.

  • http://www.juliaduin.com Julia Duin

    As a former Houston Chronicle religion writer, wanted to add something here. The Chron’s religion coverage isn’t what it used to be but this column is a new low. Are you sure the word “analysis” didn’t appear alongside Holley’s piece? This is so bad, it’s laughable. Calling Mike Bickle “self-trained” is the ultimate put-down, I guess but, he’s got one hugely successful ministry in Kansas City that just made the front page of the NYT. And last I heard, the 2 IHOPS had come to an agreement out of court. Would have been nice if the columnist had included that. As for Lou Engle, he’s done way more than fly to Uganda; he’s staged some huge prayer rallies himself around the country.
    And as for the Southern Poverty Law Center – they used to trash us at the Washington Times quite a bit. After awhile, we just ignored them.

  • J

    I think the SPLC’s reputation is pretty solid. Over the years, they filed many law suits that broke the back of various violent groups. When they are listed as a resource on the FBI’s hate crime site, that’s very telling. Yes, there are some who call the SPLC a liberal mouthpiece, but then again some say the same thing about anyone they disagree with. For what it is worth, the SPLC has identified black separatists as hate groups. See http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/black-separatist/active_hate_groups.

    On whether FOF is a hate group, from the SPLC website (http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/spring/a-mighty-army)

    Among the scores of anti-gay commentaries, stories and products on FOF’s Web site is a Dobson essay that strikes a typical note: “Moms and Dads, are you listening? This movement is the greatest threat to your children. It is of particular danger to your wide-eyed boys, who have no idea what demoralization is planned for them.” Another article claims that “the homosexual agenda is a beast. It wants our kids.”

    This is objectively different from a church that preaches simply that homosexuality is a sin, or someone who believes that states have the right to regulate sexual conduct. Or even someone who argues that homosexuality is against nature. This speech says that our children are endangered by homosexuals generally, which simply isn’t true, and strikes at a core fear.

    Sounds hateful to me. No, it’s not the KKK killing folks. But a condition for violence to arise is making people believe they are threatened. Telling folks that gays want their children certainly has the potential to result in violence.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    In my experience, SPLC is precisely as non-partisan and trustworthy as the James Dobson era Focus on the Family.

    Both have interesting information.

    Neither could be taken seriously, apart from balancing information from other groups.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    I’m aware of exactly zero pagans in public office, at least I know of none who have been willing to publicly expose their beliefs to ridicule and abuse. I’m sure there are some.

    I already cited one in reply to you above.

  • http://www.shopmychurch.com Jason Stambaugh

    Per usual. Coverage of the intersection between politics and faith is often overblown, and shrouded in a cloud of ignorance.

  • Elijah

    I’m with tmatt here – the biases and ideological leanings of the SPLC are well-known and easy to find. And their talent for fundraising and relentless self-promotion even more so…

    http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4482

  • http://!)! Passing By

    tmatt -

    Thank you.

    This whole business of “hate crimes” and “hate groups” has some serious implications for journalism. When they can punish you not just for what you do, but what you think and how you feel, then the press will cease to have any kind of meaningful freedom.

    A couple of folks in these comments (on this or another thread) stated that presentation of some opinions is a waste of time and offensive, the ideas being (my words) beyond stupid. This whole business cuts both ways: if you can suppress my beliefs, I can suppress yours. In fact, any of us could come up with a list of current beliefs, some factual, some simply social dogma, that were minority beliefs at one time and thought beyond the pale for serious consideration.

    Violence, slander/libel, and other concerns of the anti-group groups are covered by criminal and civil law, and the whole “hate group” business smacks of gaining political advantage for ones own views through intimidation.

    Again, the implications for journalism are huge. In fact, I would suggest that it defines the difference between journalism and propaganda.

  • http://www.abbottepub.com/tyndale21gospels.html Stephen A.

    Thanks, Will. Now I know of exactly one Pagan in elective office, but my point stands, since it was related to coverage of this event, at which unsubstantiated comments were made.

    Apparently, someone there called on people to “quit electing paganS” (plural) and I want to know whether he or she was reacting to this ONE Pagan’s election (doubtful) and whether a reporter has challenged that accusation, and explored WHY this is so horrible in the eyes of the accuser. All legitimate media angles, I would think.

    And I want to know why bringing up a NEWS COVERAGE issue like this results in hostility from this site’s visitors, as reflected in the increasingly annoying and irrelevant “hot debate” vote up/vote down mechanism.

  • Dave

    Stephen, I cited an earlier comment made by one sponsor of the event, to the effect of “stop electing Pagans.” I don’t know of anyone saying that at the event.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Stephen A -

    As I remember it, the like/dislike buttons were added after a complaint that we often like a post but don’t have anything to say about it. Unfortunately, the buttons refer to comments, so posts still go unremarked on, unless you disagree. Personally, I’m entertained by the whole thing, liked or disliked.

    There is one thing:

    On the computer, once I’ve registered an opinion, the option grays out. Quite accidentally, I found that reading on my cell phone, I can like or dislike a post as much as I want. I wonder if this is the cause of a sudden uptick in the responses to certain ideological comments.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Stephen A -

    My comment above is on the wrong thread. Sorry and hope you see it.

  • str

    Its a big deal because our constitution and it’s creators knew it was a big deal. No politics in religion, no religion in politics.

    Only that the constitution does not say that. And views of a bunch of guys 200+ years ago are their private matter.

    The event is newsworthy because the MSM disagrees with it and is itself intolerant.

  • str

    Now, do I have to explain why the former surgeon general for the Reagan administration should be considered a medical authority?

    A medical authority, i.e. an authority on medical matters. But is this a question of medicine?

    It is worrying that there are actually people who think that there actually is one body that has the authority to simply decide who is or is not a “hate group”. And that was the question Sarah was raising, resulting in being patronised by getting uncalled for lecturin on what the SPLC is…


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