The Political Strategist’s Conversion that Led to Ron Paul’s New Faithiness

There’s a new Facebook group, Evangelicals for Ron Paul, the brainchild of the architect of both President Bushes’ evangelical outreach strategy.

The development signals a new approach by Paul, who, despite being a favorite of homeschoolers, a student of Christian Reconstructionist economics, and a committed foe of legal abortion, has never really played the religion card like a good, lock-step Republican. But recently he brought on Doug Wead as a senior advisor to his campaign.

Wead told me that he encouraged Paul to dust off a 2007 “Statement of Faith” after a meeting with David Lane, the evangelical organizer who is a big player in the Rick Perry prayer rally and was behind the Pastors’ Policy Briefings from which Paul and other GOP candidates were excluded during the 2008 primaries. Lane, said Wead, “wanted something more religious, I guess, something that would cover him with his base if he had Paul come in.” But, Wead added, “Ron wouldn’t help him at all” because he’s “just not a panderer.” Lane, Wead concluded, “has found his guy in Rick Perry.” (Lane did not respond to requests for comment.)

Wead, though, “dusted off” Paul’s statement of faith, which he says the candidate wrote himself, and put it on the Facebook page. It reads, in part (emphasis in original):

My faith is a deeply private issue to me, and I don’t speak on it in great detail during my speeches because I want to avoid any appearance of exploiting it for political gain. Let me be very clear here:  I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I endeavor every day to follow Him in all I do and in every position I advocate.

Wead’s career has included, among many other things, orchestrating both Bushes’ evangelical outreach (followed by a rift precipitated by his 2005 release of secretly taped conversations with George W. Bush, in which the latter admitted to marijuana use); serving as a ghostwriter for John Hagee; and coming to the defense of televangelist Kenneth Copeland while he was under investigation by the Senate Finance Committee.

Paul’s opposition to the Iraq War got his attention, said Wead, who says he knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and that “we were conned.”

Wead, who was instrumental in intertwining religious conservatives in presidential politics, now says he’s undergone a conversion: he thinks evangelicals have been led astray by the culture war focus on establishing a “Christian nation.” He pointed to Paul’s support for building mosques, despite much conservative evangelical opposition. “Protections under the Constitution have to work for everyone or it will stop working,” said Wead.

Wead asked, as if speaking to his conservative Christian brethren, “do you really want a Christian government to rule? You’re going to end up with Ivan the Terrible.” He maintained that “their freedom of worship, culture, and lifestyle are threatened by their own tactics.” He derided their elevation of the Bible over the Constitution: “If the Bible says blue, and someone else says red, they’ll go with blue, even if it means giving up some liberty to go with blue.” And, returning to the Ivan the Terrible analogy, he maintained, “after vespers, he would go down to his dungeon and torture prisoners.”

The release of the statement of faith from Paul, Wead said, was to make evangelicals aware of his faith. Wead acknowledged that while Paul’s campaign has an appeal to some evangelicals (and I’d argue that the overlap between Tea Partiers and conservative Christians proves that comfortable overlap, even if it hasn’t translated to bigger poll numbers for Paul), Perry is stealing a lot of limelight at the moment. Perry is getting a late start, which Wead maintains is to his disadvantage, but the support of religious right elites will help Perry because, said Wead, evangelicals “tend to go with the pack.” But, he maintained, he recently spoke at a church, where he found “a small chunk” of the audience “who are on the same path that I’m on. Will they fall into line if word comes down that Rick Perry is the man?”

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email