The religious right’s campaign to drag houses of worship into partisan politics marches on. The man who helped organize thousands of conservative pastors in support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2005 and 2006 is now mobilizing pastors in Missouri behind controversial Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin.
The Washington Post reports that political strategist David Lane recently pulled 400 Missouri pastors together to pray over a kneeling Akin at a St. Louis event. The occasion was one of a series of “Renewal Project” events Lane has organized in that state. The gatherings are similar to the six “Texas Restoration Project” events Lane organized for Gov. Perry in 2005 and a seventh for his re-inauguration as Texas governor in January 2007. (Gov. Perry spoke at the St. Louis “Renewal Project” event that featured Akin.) Thousands of pastors and their spouses attended those Texas events. Organizers attending the gatherings in Texas and other states have encouraged pastors to politicize their own congregations.
Akin has alienated mainstream Missourians by suggesting that only some rapes are “legitimate” — part of an absurd argument that rape triggers something in a woman’s body that keeps her from becoming pregnant, thus eliminating rape as a possible reason to have an abortion. He has also called his opponent, Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, “unladylike.”
Lane apparently sees Akin as a model for all Republican candidates:
“People are drawn to Akin’s cause because they see it as the opening battle for the soul of the Republican Party.”
The Missouri Renewal Project events have been paid for by the American Family Association (AFA), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group. Gov. Perry asked AFA to organize his Houston prayer extravaganza in August 2011, just before he announced his wildly unsuccessful bid for the Republican president nomination.