The Rev. Laurence White of Houston, a Lutheran pastor, helps organize pastors nationwide for “restoration project” get-out-the-vote campaigns.
In a perfect world, he said, evangelicals would be counting on Fort Worth-trained minister Mike Huckabee to help turn out conservatives for primaries and precinct conventions.
Without Huckabee running, White said Perry can become the favorite “because we live in a less-than-perfect world.”
The ministers and religious conservatives in White’s e-mail network are waiting for a signal to begin a national “Draft Perry” movement, he said.
They’d like to start after the Texas Legislature adjourns May 30, White said.
As I’ve reported before, during the 2008 presidential campaign, the Restoration Projects (sometimes called Renewal Projects), were highly — some would say singularly — supportive of Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid. White, who founded the Texas Restoration Project in 2005, believes America has fallen off a cliff into Nazism: “For it seems to me that the only moral collapse comparable to what is happening in America today that has ever taken place is that which occurred in Germany in the 1920s through the 1940s.” White’s a hero on the religious right speaking circuit, for, as the Iowa Christian Alliance put it in 2007, his advocacy for “the importance of being unwavering in our commitment to stand for Biblical values and defend truth in an increasingly postmodern society.” The Restoration/Renewal Projects are based on a model developed in California in the 1990s to oppose gay marriage.
According to a report [pdf] prepared by the church-state separation advocacy group the Texas Freedom Network in 2006, Perry “clearly wants the thousands of pastors associated with the Texas Restoration Project to help him communicate with evangelical Christians and other conservatives . . . . Even his speeches at pastors’ briefings now sound much like sermons.” The report quotes Perry:
“This I know,” the governor-cum-evangelist preached to approving pastors at one of the Restoration Project’s Austin events. “He who counts every hair on our heads and every drop in the oceans; He who knows the number of our days and every thought before it enters our heads; this all-knowing, all-powerful Creator loves us so much that there is not a matter so trivial or so small that we can’t surrender it to Him and say, ‘Father, your will be done!’ I certainly know this to be the heartfelt prayer of a governor.”
Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, told RD today:
It sure wouldn’t surprise us to us to see Gov. Perry use pastors for a presidential run the same way he has in his Texas campaigns. After all, he didn’t spend six years building this church-based political machine to let it go to waste. The sad truth is that politicians have become almost shameless in turning churches into campaign props and using faith as a weapon to divide voters.
Dave Weigel doesn’t think Perry has a chance. But it’s clear that with Huckabee deciding not to run, restless, politicized, right-wing pastors are looking for a new hero. Their intent may not be to back the ultimate winner of the GOP nomination, but to push the other candidates into a corner of promoting their “biblical” principles and worldview, or risk losing the enthusiasm of the GOP’s religious base.