Does David Dewhurst see electoral gold in politicizing Texas churches? The Texas lieutenant governor is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison is leaving after this year. On March 23 he will attend “a private briefing” with conservative pastors at a megachurch in south Houston. The right-wing Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC) is promoting the event.
From the event’s website:
Join pastors and community leaders for this timely opportunity to have a private briefing on critical issues facing state and nation, and also have personal interaction with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. We will introduce other elected officials and candidates in attendance. Included in the program will be critical Primary and General election information.
This “private briefing” is a page right out of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s political playbook. Gov. Perry has made courting the support of conservative pastors a key part of building his electoral base over the years. In fact, the governor spoke before thousands of pastors and their spouses at six “Pastors Policy Briefings” sponsored by the Texas Restoration Project in 2005 and at others since then. All of the events have been closed to news reporters (except for a crew from the Christian News Network at one). But Restoration Project organizers made it clear that they wanted pastors to use their positions and their churches to push a political agenda (an agenda Gov. Perry promoted in his speeches to those pastors).
The March 23 “briefing” doesn’t appear to be a Restoration Project event, but that seems to be a distinction without much difference. Will reporters be allowed into Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “private briefing” with pastors? We’ll see. But this isn’t a courtesy call by Dewhurst — it’s an effort by yet another politician to drag churches into partisan politics.
We also note that the event will be held at Grace Community Church. The pastor at Grace is Steve Riggle, who last month publicly released a letter demanding that Houston Mayor Annise Parker resign or stop exercising her First Amendment right to speak out in support of same-sex marriage. Texas Restoration Project events for Gov. Perry also featured numerous anti-gay speakers as well as incendiary rhetoric. One speaker, for example, suggested that God sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans and was prepared to incinerate America because of tolerance for gay people.