Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose insistence that he won't run for president next year has become more equivocal in recent weeks, is stoking speculation about his national ambitions with plans to keynote a prayer event at a Houston football stadium later this summer.
Perry came up with the idea for the event himself, said his spokesman, Mark Miner. Dubbed "The Response," it will be held on August 6 at Houston’s 71,500-seat Reliant Stadium. Among the co-sponsors is the American Family Association, designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its anti-gay positions.
Miner described the group in an e-mail as "an organization that promotes faith and strong families." Bryan Fischer, AFA's director of issue analysis for government and public policy, last year blamed homosexuality for the Holocaust and the rise of Nazism.
The governor also has strong views on homosexuality. In his 2008 book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, Perry strongly backed the organization’s ban on gay scout leaders; he has said he considers homosexuality a lifestyle choice. Since social conservatives would be integral to any presidential campaign strategy Perry might have, he'd likely be helped more than hurt by associating with an anti-gay group.
Perry and the event’s organizers have billed the prayer summit as a bipartisan, non-denominational day of fasting and prayer in response to the "historic crisis" facing the United States. Perry sent a letter to the other 49 governors inviting them to participate.
"Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel," Perry said in press release issued late Monday. "I urge all Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities, and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force."
If he is thinking about a run, associating with the AFA, which is bankrolling the event, could hurt Perry, especially if he makes it to the general election.
Perry had until recently been unequivocal in saying he would not run for president, but the effort to raise his national profile is just one more indication that he's begun to rethink his position.
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