Texas governor Rick Perry's prayer-apalooza will definitely target
gay people, and it will set out to spread Christianity, according to a
string of statements made by the event's organizers as part of a
nondefense against criticism.
The event had been under fire for being hosted by an actively antigay group and for generally excluding anyone who isn't Christian. In response, Perry and his surrogates have gone to the media to say, yes, that's the crux of their agenda.
The president of the American Family Association, which is hosting and paying for the event, told the Houston Chronicle that his group's opposition to homosexuality represents "a lot of people who have traditional values" and that one purpose of the rally is to pray for an end to the "debasement of our culture" caused by acceptance of gay people.
Aside from praying away the gay in our country, another spokesman for the organization says they'll be trying to get rid of the nonbelievers as well.
"A lot of people want to criticize what we're doing, as if we're somehow being exclusive of other faiths. But anyone who comes to this solemn assembly, regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall," said Eric Bearse, who is the event's spokesman and a former communications director for Perry. "And that's what we want to convey, that there's acceptance and that there's love and that there's hope if people will seek out the living Christ."
Bearse made the comments while a guest on an official AFA radio show. The group was classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group" because of its attacks on gays. But Perry himself told TheNew York Times he would use a different phrase to describe his partner for the prayer rally.
"The AFA is a group that promotes faith and strong families, and this event is about bringing Americans together in prayer," he wrote in an email to the newspaper. Then, in a big understatement, he said, "I have made it clear that I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman."