David J. Phillip
Texas Gov. Rick Perry bows his head as he leads a prayer at The Response, a call to prayer for a nation in crisis, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, in Houston.
Rick Perry released a new religion-themed campaign ad Wednesday, promising voters that as president, he would “end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. ”
Perry did not immediately make clear which “liberal attacks on religion” he would fight, but said “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.”
Watch the campaign video below:
The full text of Perry’s new ad:
The Texas governor, who has roots in Methodism but currently attends a non-denominational evangelical church, has made his Christian faith a prominent selling point of his campaign. The week before he officially launched his presidential bid, Perry led The Response, a Christian prayer revival in Houston that he endorsed through an official government proclamation. After mentioning the economic downturn and other signs of national “darkness,” at the revival, Perry said, “Because we know a loving God, we know that the greatest darkness comes just before the morning.” Critics said Perry was invoking his faith for political purposes.
Other religious controversies have marked Perry’s campaign.
In October, Perry accepted the introduction of Pastor Robert Jeffress, known for his controversial remarks on Mormonism, — saying the pastor “knocked it out of the park”— before his speech at the Values Voter Summit. Jeffress went on to call Perry opponent Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith a “cult,” to great debate among religious and political leaders.
Anita Perry, the governor’s wife, also put a religious lens on Perry’s campaign when, at an October campaign event, she told supporters that God was working through her to convince her husband to run for president. When the couple was contemplating a presidential bid, “God was already speaking to me,” Anita Perry said, “but he [Rick Perry] felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said, ‘Let me tell you something: You might not see the burning bush but other people are seeing it for you.’” The governor’s wife also said at the time that she believed Perry was “being brutalized by our opponents…. because of his faith.”
Still, with Wednesday’s ad, Perry launched a battle over faith that sets up a spiritual showdown between him and the Democratic president. Although he did not give specifics on what he called “Obama’s war on religion,” Perry’s message may resonate with those conservative voters who say that the government has gone too far to remove religion from the public square. (See the Rhode Island Christmas/Holiday tree controversy this week.)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington December 1, 2011.
For years Obama has been plagued by questions about his faith. Although the president has made prominent professions of faith as recently as last week –CNN’s Dan Gilgoff called the president’s Christmas message “very Christian,” — you can read it here — a 2010 Pew poll showed that one in five Americans believe, falsely, that Obama is Muslim, and only one third say, correctly, that the president is Christian. His association with the United Church of Christ’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who said in a sermon that America was to blame for the 9/11 attacks, hurt him politically but did not solidify the public’s identification of Obama as a Christian.
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