A national organization that focuses on recruiting conservative evangelical pastors and their churches into partisan political warfare is gearing up for the 2014 midterm elections, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be a speaker at one of its first events this year.
A report from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) provides a broad overview of the American Renewal Project’s plans over the next two years. Those plans includes voter registration drives and a series of “pastor policy briefings” in 12 states. The briefings follow the model of the Texas Restoration Project, which in 2005 hosted six such “briefings” for thousands of pastors and their spouses in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Gov. Perry was the featured speaker at each of those events, all held the year before the governor ran for re-election. The Texas Freedom Network later discovered that the events — including venue rentals as well as food and lodging for pastors – were secretly bankrolled by major Perry campaign donors, including voucher sugar daddy James Leininger of San Antonio.
The CBN article reveals that the American Renewal Project is housed within the right-wing American Family Association (AFA). Gov. Perry asked AFA to organize his Houston prayer extravaganza in August 2011, which was held just before he announced his disastrous bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. The Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes AFA as an anti-gay hate group.
According to CBN, the states targeted by the American Renewal Project and organizer David Lane (a longtime Perry ally), are Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Nevada, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. Gov. Perry is scheduled to speak at the initial “Pastors and Pews” event in May in Des Moines, Iowa. Other invited speakers include Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
CBN reports that the goal of the group’s project “is to engage pastors around issues so they will get their congregations to participate in the political process and flock to voting booths. Right now, tens of millions of evangelical Christians simply don’t vote.”
The American Renewal Project sent out the CBN story on the group’s extensive email list, which includes pastors who have participated in Texas Restoration Project events. You can read the full CBN piece here.