‘Buying’ the evangelical vote?

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Ever since Thomas Jefferson originally penned the phrase “a wall of separation between church and state” in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, the national government and its leaders have been forbidden from advocating, prohibiting or establishing any one particular organized religion.

However, Jefferson may be shocked if he could see the tactics being used by some GOP candidates this electoral season. 2012 is shaping up to be one of the most openly religious elections ever.

Just a week before announcing his candidacy for the presidency, Gov. Rick Perry held a prayer rally in Houston. Dubbing the event “The Response,” Perry invited Christians from all over the U.S. and governors from the other 49 states to join him in a day of prayer and fasting to end America’s decline.

About 30,000 people gathered into Reliant stadium on Aug. 6, but the only other governor to attend was Sam Brownback from Kansas.

One would hope this prayer summit to be a Spirit-inspired event. But is Perry just trying to garner the vote of the Christian evangelical movement?

Many groups, including the American Atheists, staged protests and even filed suits in attempts to stop the governor’s prayer rally, calling the it a violation of the separation of church and state. The arguments proved feeble, however, and the event went on.

During the rally, the governor spoke and prayed for the country’s future.

“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,” Perry said.

Perry could not put on the rally without the help of one peculiar group however. According to Guardian News, “The American Family Association (AFA), which runs a network of 200 radio stations – and which has been labeled a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Centre for its attitude to gay people – contributed an estimated $1m towards the cost of the rally.”

Many Christians are opposed to electing Perry for president because of this alignment with the AFA. Many view the AFA as a group that promotes hatred, and hate is not a value found in the Gospel. In fact, many protesters outside the rally called the AFA “Un-Christian.”

While there are those who do not support the group funding Perry’s prayer summit, the fact remains that many Christians will praise the governor for hosting the event. The Christian voting force will be one to contend with.

Perry also has the support of the Tea Party behind him. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Michele Bachmann may be the head of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, but Rick Perry is the “tea party’s” presidential favorite, according to a new Gallup poll.”

Thirty-five percent of Tea Party supporters told Gallup they prefer Perry out of a field of eight GOP presidential contenders. Fourteen percent favored Bachmann.

Perry may be the smooth-talking, southern, golden boy in the coming presidential race, but let’s hope his motives are genuine. And that he is not playing the Christian card to garner support.

Author: Garrett Pekar

Garrett is a sophomore mass communication/journalism major from Granger, Texas. He is the opinions page editor for The Bells. Garrett is also an RA in McLane Hall as well as member of the men’s tennis team. His hobbies include spending quality time with friends and family, listening to music and playing some of his own on the guitar.

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