Perry and "Hate Group" Team Up for Rally

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on June 08 2011 3:00 PM ET

Texas governor Rick Perry plans to fill a football stadium with
Christians to pray for solutions to the country's problems. And he’s
partnering with one of the nation’s most notoriously antigay groups to
launch the big event.

The American Family Association will pick up much of the bill for the rally, which will be held in August at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The organization was listed this year as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of a long history of spreading falsehoods about gay people, including that they are child molesters. But Perry’s spokesman used a different phrase to describe the group Tuesday.

“This is an organization that promotes safe and strong families,” spokesman Mark Miner told The Texas Tribune while defending their joint event, called The Response, which is advertised as “a call to prayer for a nation in crisis.”

What the group really promotes is “propaganda” that leads directly to criminal violence against gay people, says Mark Potok, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, which investigates hate groups. Potok wants Perry “to walk away” from the event.

Perry has invited all of the nation’s governors to attend the prayer rally. So far, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas had said he’s in. But Indiana governor Mitch Daniels says he’s out. Potok warns all of them to stay away.

“When you get high-ranking politicians at an event that is paid for and organized by the American Family Association, you are giving a very vile group a kind of legitimacy that it absolutely does not deserve — no matter what they’re doing,” Potok tells The Advocate.

The event has so far been promoted under a broad message of fixing what ails the country without any specifically antigay promotion. But Potok is unconvinced.

“I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any kind of interaction with a hate group,” he says.

The AFA is known for a boycott of Home Depot for its participation in gay pride parades, and the group once boycotted Ford for advertising in gay publications. But its agenda goes much deeper than that. Bryan Fischer, AFA’s director of issue analysis, called for criminalization of homosexuality as recently as February 2010. On Tuesday, Fischer predicted that the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” would lead to the reinstatement of the draft because of depressed recruiting numbers.