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August 5, 2011

Jewish Dems: Perry Leading “The Response” Alongside Known Hate Groups Should Be Concerning to All

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC—The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today expressed its deep concern regarding Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry’s decision to spearhead “The Response” prayer rally tomorrow in Houston, Texas. “The Response” is hosted by the American Family Association—a group that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC Hate Map]—and is billed as a prayer and fasting rally that is targeted toward an exclusively Christian audience. The American Family Association’s leaders, along with many of the rally’s participants, have well-documented records of making anti-gay statements, pushing a radical anti-choice and anti-woman agenda, and attacking the First Amendment. Certain participants and sponsors have made outrageous comments about Jews and even attempted to theologically justify the Holocaust. [AP, August 3, 2011]

The rally is aimed at healing “a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.” According to “The Response’s” organizers, the United States needs healing from “perversion” and “addiction,” while the only hope for America “lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.” [The Response] A spokesperson for the event also indicated that the event may have a proselytizing agenda.

In promoting the event, Perry appeared to abdicate his governing responsibilities when he proclaimed, “I think it’s time for us to just hand [America] over to God and say, ‘God, You’re going to have to fix this.’” [Salon, July 14, 2011]

David A Harris, President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said:

“Texas Governor Rick Perry’s decision to spearhead ‘The Response’ rally and associate with the American Family Association—a designated hate group—is deeply concerning given the 2012 election buzz surrounding him, let alone his current charge to govern the entire state of Texas. Judging by the event’s billing, Perry has opted to treat non-Christian Americans, including American Jews, as utterly irrelevant. This event runs counter to the First Amendment; its preferential language towards Christianity excludes entire groups of Americans from participating; and the leadership presence of gay-hating organizations sends a chilling message.

“By seriously suggesting that America’s issues can only be solved by praying, Perry is trafficking in religious demagoguery instead of getting down to the serious business of governing. His refusal to heed the calls of Texas faith leaders to reconsider his leadership of this exclusivist rally demonstrates that he is not ready to serve all Americans and that he is certainly not someone who can be trusted to represent the values of American Jews.”

Perry’s “Response” rally has raised alarm from several religious and secular organizations committed to preserving the First Amendment.

The National Association of Jewish Legislators (NAJL) expressed “disappointment and shock” at Perry’s support for the “divisive and exclusionary” event. Texas State Representative Elliott Naishtat, member of the NAJL, said, “I’m disappointed that Gov. Perry would choose to align himself or affiliate with an organization that is on record as being exclusionary in nature.” [ThinkProgress, June 16, 2011]

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed its concern in a letter to Perry:

Your invitation to join in a Christian prayer meeting suggests to non-Christians that they are outsiders. Coming from someone elected to serve a religiously pluralistic constituency, it is misguided and deeply insensitive.

There is no question that many Texans and indeed many Americans are facing serious challenges. However, these individuals and families come from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds. It is perfectly appropriate for a minister, priest or other religious leader to call for members of a congregation to look to Jesus for guidance, but it is a religiously divisive and inappropriate message coming from an elected leader. [ADL, June 10, 2011]

Sixteen rabbis joined in the ADL’s initiative along with other members of the ADLs’ Coalition for Mutual Respect. [ADL, August 2, 2011]

The Houston Clergy Council also wrote a letter describing several reasons why they oppose the event:

Our religious communities include Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists, and many other faith traditions. Our city is also home to committed agnostics and atheists, with whom we share common cause as fellow Houstonians. Houston has long been known as a ‘live and let live’ city, where all are respected and welcomed. It troubles us that the governor’s prayer event is not open to everyone. In the publicized materials, the governor has made it clear that only Christians of a particular kind are welcome to pray in a certain way. We feel that such an exclusive event does not reflect the rich tapestry of our city.

Their letter insisted “that Rick Perry leave the ministry to us and refocus his energy on the work of governing our state.” [Houston Clergy Council, June 13, 2011]

“The Response’s” endorsers and organizers are some of America’s most extreme religious conservatives.

The American Family Association (AFA) is a major sponsor that has been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate organization [SPLC Intelligence File] [SPLC Hate Map] for their unrelenting attacks on the LGBT community, women’s rights, and most progressive policies. They have also targeted the Jewish community when they suggested that a Jewish upbringing is linked with “drug use,” “a criminal lifestyle,” and a “hatred of Christians.” [Media Matters, April 13, 2005]

  • The president of AFA, Tim Wildmon, recently stated that eternal damnation awaits “not just Jews or Muslims,” but also “anybody that rejects the free gift of salvation through Christ. The Bible teaches there’s heaven and hell. Those who believe go to heaven. Those who don’t go to hell.” [Texas Tribune, June 7, 2011
  • Bryan Fischer, the AFA director of issue analysis for government and public policy, said that homosexuality “gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” [The Pitch, August 2, 2011]


Pastor John Hagee, who has a well-documented history of outrageous comments, also endorsed the rally. He has said that Jews are not “spiritually alive,” and attempted to theologically justify the Holocaust. [Talk To Action, May 25, 2008]

“The Response’s” spokesman Eric Bearse implied that the event is intended to proselytize:

[A]nyone who comes to this solemn assembly regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that’s what we want to convey, that there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope if people will seek out the living Christ. And that’s the message we want to spread on August 6th. [Right Wing Watch, 2011]

Governor Perry seems to think that he is not just an elected official, but someone who “truly believe[s] with all [his] heart that God has put [him] in this place at this time to do His will.” [UPI, August 2, 2011]

This event clearly illustrates that Perry aligns himself with some of the most extreme religious conservatives instead of promoting religious pluralism. His leadership of the event proves that he is not concerned with the values of most American Jews and not someone who is ready to represent all Americans.