Just in time for the holidays, Rick Perry is airing a new ad that seems to call on Christians to come out of the closet — and gays to go back in.
"There's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school," says the the Texas governor, who was once the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination but has fallen to single digits in the polls.
"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian," he says to start the ad. Perry is known for hosting a massive prayer rally in a Houston football stadium days before announcing his campaign in August. The rally was hosted in partnership with the American Family Association, which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group" for its spread of misinformation about LGBT people.
A spokesman for the AFA, Bryan Fischer, predicted at the time that repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" — which was finalized in September — would lead to reinstating the draft because straight people wouldn't want to serve with gays and lesbians.
Perry seems to be striking a familiar theme being invoked by the right-wing these days — that they are the victims. Perry's wife, Anita, said as much in October during a speech in South Carolina.
“We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party," she said. "So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith."
Perry now says the attacks have turned into a "war on religion."
"As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion, and I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage," he said in the ad. "Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."
The Human Rights Campaign reacted to the ad swiftly, saying Perry doesn't represent all people of faith.
"Rick Perry’s rhetoric presumes that you can’t be Christian and supportive of LGBT people," said Sharon Groves, director of HRC’s Religion & Faith program. "Yet many Christians see in Jesus’ example a call to love and support their LGBT neighbors. Rick Perry is trying to claim religion for political motives but it won’t work. Our faith is too precious to be used as a cynical tool for political ends.”