(Excerpted from a column that appeared June 7, 2005.)
Now we see Gov. Rick Perry's secret weapon.
To prove that his re-election campaign still has a prayer, he'll team up with TV preachers.
At an event that was part state-government ceremony and part healing revival, Perry stood coiffure-to-coiffure with one of the darlings of TV religion Sunday, then signed into law a bill protecting the unborn.
The Calvary Cathedral International church in Fort Worth was careful not to let Perry campaign inside. Instead, he spoke next door in the school gym against a giant backdrop of a white Christian warrior.
On an all-star lineup of political preachers, Perry shared top billing with Daystar TV personality Rod Parsley, here from Ohio to help organize 500 Texas ministers for the upcoming political campaign.
Later, Parsley took his pitch and his new activist book, Silent No More, inside the church.
And I do mean pitch.
“There you are, son!” Parsley said as a little boy came down an aisle with an outstretched $20 for the book-DVD set. “Grow up and preach the gospel!”
Perry ostensibly came for a state-government ceremony open to the public, enacting a law requiring parental approval before a minor daughter can get an abortion.
But the setting and purpose became issues when Perry's campaign and the Tarrant County Republican Party mistakenly announced that the signing would be in the church and invited “pro-family, Christian friends. ... We really need for you to help us turn out a very large crowd. We may also film part of this to be used later for TV.”
The gym crowd of about 1,000 included about 150 ministers. Many are already aligned with Perry's campaign in a new religious activist network, the Texas Restoration Project.
The ministers say they want to restore Texas' “Judeo-Christian heritage.” But the project also seems timed to restore Perry to the Governor's Mansion.
Preacher after preacher saved his biggest load of steam for bashing the newest political boogeyman: gay marriage.
Perry also ceremonially endorsed the already passed resolution calling a November election on a definition-of-marriage constitutional amendment.
Preaching from behind the official seal of the governor of Texas, Parsley said gay Americans cause 60 percent of syphilis cases and live barely half as long as heterosexual Americans. He argued against “sacrificing our children on the altar of the sexual lust of a few.”
Later in the school library, Perry was asked in a news conference how he would tell Texas gay and lesbian Iraq War veterans that they can't come home and get married.
Perry said if they don't like Texas law, they can just leave.
“I'm going to say Texas has made a decision on marriage,” he said, “and if there's a state with more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's where they should live.”
The Rick Perry Prayer Cloth?