No one could doubt that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Baylor University President Ken Starr are social conservatives. But do those two honestly think it’s a good thing to associate themselves with — and even aid — people who call the president of the United States “anti-Christian” and compare him and Democratic leaders to Nazis? Who call the mayor of Houston a “sodomite”? Who suggest Muslim Americans aren’t loyal citizens and praise someone with a history of making anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic smears? Who question — in truly vicious language — the religious faith of fellow pastors if they disagree on issues?
Yet Abbott and Starr are supporting people who say such things next month in Houston. The Houston Area Pastor Council/Texas Pastor Council plans to present Abbott with a “Faithful Citizenship Award” at a major fundraiser for the group on March 22. Starr will be the featured speaker at the same event.
Now, you might think a group that goes by the name “Pastor Council” offers a relatively benign venue for an ambitious politician and the head of a prominent Baptist university. But the group’s executive director, Dave Welch, is notorious for the deeply divisive and downright hateful rhetoric he employs in pursuit of his group’s political agenda. A few examples:
- Although President Obama is a Christian, Welch has suggested that he really is an “enemy” of Christianity and our country and charges that the president promotes “anti-Christian” and “anti-American” policies. He says pastors who acknowledge the president’s Christian faith are “much like the clergy of Hitlerian Germany and the ‘Positive Christianity’ that represented complete acquiescence to and control by the Nazi state.” In 2010 he called President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “the Fourth Reich.”
- He calls gay people a “morally depraved special interest group” and Houston’s twice-elected, openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, a “sodomite.” He was one of the leaders of a group of social conservatives who warned of a “gay takeover” of Houston’s City Hall if Parker were elected mayor. He later cited her election as evidence that Houston is a “sin-sick city.” (Two of March 22 event’s co-chairs, Steven Hotze and Steve Riggle, have also been among the most extreme anti-gay voices in Houston politics.)
- Last fall the Pastor Council praised conservative evangelist Tim LaHaye as “one of the greatest pastors of all time.” LaHaye, a prominent fundamentalist preacher and coauthor of the apocalyptic Left Behind books, in the past has called Roman Catholicism “a false religion” and even asserted that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
- In October 2010 Welch called a federal judge a “domestic enemy” and said she was guilty of treason for ruling that the Pentagon’s policy against gay people serving openly in the military was unconstitutional.
- Welch has said that clergy who accept the science of evolution are “no more a Christian than the chimpanzees from which he or she claims to have evolved.” He has also attacked “the pathetic preachers, pitiful pastors and compromised clergy” who opposed a State Board of Education resolution falsely claiming that history textbooks used in public schools are anti-Christian and promote Islam. “They disgust me,” Welch wrote about those clergy members, who had called the resolution misleading, divisive and inflammatory.
- Welch says he opposes Muslims who seek leadership positions in government because “we have deep concerns about the loyalty of Muslims to the Constitution.”
- When Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for Americans to unite in prayer at Houston’s Reliant Stadium in August 2011, Welch publicly insisted that the event be limited to Christians only. He characterized the alternative as a “polytheistic approach and … interfaith event that requires Christians to squelch the mention of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Abbott and Starr are free to associate with whomever they please, of course. But by participating in the the Pastor Council’s benefit, they appear to be endorsing the slime, viciousness and bigotry promoted by some of their hosts. Shame on them.