Revolution #243, August 21, 2011

Rick Perry's Christian Fascist "Response"

Revolution received the following correspondence:

On August 6, Rick Perry, governor of Texas, and the American Family Association (AFA) hosted "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis" at Reliant Stadium in Houston. This prayer rally was explicitly inspired by the Book of Joel and based on the 7 principles of the American Family Association (AFA). The AFA is known for its decades long promotion of "traditional values," and has played a prominent role in the culture wars, including in demonizing the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) community, immigrants and non-Christians.

The Book of Joel is a very blood thirsty book in the Old Testament, that describes an apocalyptic judgment day. Chapter 3, verse 9-10 reads: "… Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong." Sponsors and endorsers of this event read like a who's who of the Christian fascists. Along with Rick Perry, two other sitting governors participated. Sam Brownback of Kansas spoke, and Rick Scott, governor of Florida sent a video message. News reports said that about 30,000 people attended this prayer rally.

Many people were alarmed, angry and protested "The Response" in different ways. A Family, Faith and Freedom panel was held the night before "The Response..." It was sponsored by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), and the Family, Faith and Freedom organization and featured speakers of different faiths and included Barry Lynn, the executive director of AU. LGBT Texans Against Hate organized a rally in downtown Houston on Friday night, with people expressing anger at the hate that was being mobilized with the prayer rally. Over two hundred people attended each of these events.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston organized an interfaith prayer service on the afternoon of the 6th. A lawsuit was also filed against Perry sponsoring this event, by members of Freedom From Religion Foundation on the grounds that it violates separation of church and state. This lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge. More than 50 Houston area religious and community leaders signed a statement drafted by the Anti-Defamation League, expressing deep concern that this was an exclusionary prayer rally not open to all faiths. There was also a protest initiated by the American Atheists, involving a couple of hundred people coming out throughout the day outside Reliant stadium.

Throughout these events, different analyses and programs were expressed. Most people saw this prayer rally as a clear violation of the separation of church and state and many people saw fighting "The Response" to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Some people felt that the prayer rally was discriminatory because it excluded all other faiths and that they were using god to promote hate. Then there were others who were alarmed by the brazenness of the Christian right. Other people saw this as a political ploy to get Perry elected as president of the U.S. And particularly among the LGBT protestors, they saw the problem as hate vs. love. Many of them said they thought things have been moving in a positive direction, with Houston electing a lesbian mayor and the legalization of gay marriage in New York, and that now the AFA is reasserting hate.

Protesters at Reliant stadium came from several Texas cities and the suburbs, exburbs and city of Houston. There were humanists, atheists, Christians, LGBT, students from high schools and colleges and activists. For many people, this was their first political protest. People lined the street outside the stadium with their creative hand made signs and costumes. Several youth from the suburbs said that they came out because they are sick of having Christianity shoved down their throat and want to rebel against this morality and values. The Freedom from Religion Foundation had a plane circling overhead with a message "Gov – Keep Church – State Separate" and a truck circling the arena with a billboard that read, "Beware Prayer by Pious Politicians, Get Off Your Knees and Get to Work!" Throughout the day, Get Equal, a LGBT action group led lively marches with drumming, singing, and sometimes a band—carrying a coffin with the names of LGBT youth who were either murdered or committed suicide because of the anti-gay culture that is being promoted. The response of people driving by the protest was polarized, with many people honking their horns in support, and others shouting obscenities. The protest was also protested by some members of the Westboro Baptist Church with their hateful messages. There posters literally all said "god hates ___." Fill in the blanks.

A Revolution team was out in this midst with banners and signs of quotes from BAsics. Some people took these signs and carried them all day. The most popular sign was "The Bible Belt is the Lynching Belt." One of the most controversial signs was "The Bible Taken Literally is a Horror." There were a lot of second looks from people who had to stop and think. Some people came up and debated about what it means, and a family who was going into the rally asked, "do they really think that's what Jesus is about?" The banner that read "Conservative My Ass These People are Nazis" provoked a lot of discussion on who these people are, what the people going in are getting in to, and what this is really about. We had been taking out the pyramid analysis and The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era pamphlet and got into a number of discussions with people.

Some people said that they don't think the Christian Fascists have a program that'll work, but then wondered why Obama keep conciliating to the Christian Right. We made sure that everyone got the RCP’s Message and Call and a BAsics bookmark. Especially among youth there was a lot of curiosity about communism and revolution. They talked about what they'd heard about communism and wanted to know why we're building a movement for revolution. For example, one person said there are things about communism they disagree with but that what they really like about communism is the equality, that people are equal. A group of high school students wanted to know why the capitalist system is the root of the problem and how socialism could work. They thought that what is needed is to promote greater democracy around the world. There were also questions raised about individuality and individualism and the role of religion in society. Along with Revolution newspaper and the Coming Civil War pamphlet, several people got copies of BAsics, and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

A couple of people who were out with the Revolution team said they had hoped more people would've come out, but that it was good that people were compelled to come out into the streets against the CF's from their diverse points of view – something that had not happened for a while. Another person said it struck him how important it was for us to bring out BA and this analysis because people just saw the religious right as a hate group and did not see the fascist agenda or the possibility for repolarization for revolution.

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