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The American Family Association (AFA), a virulent anti-gay hate group based in Tupelo, Miss., has agreed to pay for a national day of prayer being organized later this summer in Houston by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a longstanding ally to prominent figures in the anti-gay movement.
Eric Bearse, a spokesman for the event billed as “The Response: a Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis,” on Sunday told Reuters that Perry contacted the AFA a month ago “to call Americans together for a time of prayer.” The rally will be held Aug. 6 at Reliant Stadium, which holds nearly 72,000 people.
Neither Bearse nor Perry’s press office answered email requests for comment. But in a written statement, the governor “urged fellow governors to issue similar proclamations encouraging their constituents to pray that day for unity and righteousness.”
The AFA is one of the most strident voices spreading malicious anti-LGBT propaganda. The group’s director of policy analysis, Bryan Fischer, claimed last year, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph [sic] Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” He has proposed criminalizing homosexual behavior and advocated forcing gay men and lesbians into “reparative” therapy programs. More recently, Fischer wrote that gays were the leading perpetrators of hate crimes.
With a long history of close ties to the anti-gay movement, it’s no surprise Perry would associate himself so closely with the AFA. In his 10 years as governor, he has waged a fight to keep “homosexual conduct” listed as a criminal offense in the state penal code – a law he has said is “appropriate.”
In 2005, while signing a bill to amend the state constitution to specifically prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying, Perry was joined on stage by Rob Parsley, a celebrity Pentecostal faith healer, who lauded the governor for “protecting the children of Texas from the gay agenda.” (The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately struck down the law.) Parsley offered a series of shocking statistics – for example, that only 1% of the LGBT population in American will die of old age. The numbers, in fact, were gross distortions pulled straight from pseudo-scientific studies by Dr. Paul Cameron, a crackpot psychologist and champion of the anti-gay crusade.
“The Response” is being promoted as an event to bring America together at a time of widespread natural disaster and economic turmoil. But, more likely, it’s a response to the hard-fought advances in the gay community, most notably the pending repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Materials promoting the event have said as much. “Our nation is at a crossroads. … The youth of America are in grave peril economically, socially, and, most of all, morally,” a description on the event’s website reads. “As a nation, we must come together, call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles. … There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”