(Houston) - The devout can be deceptive. But sometimes they are just blatantly hypocritical. And because the attendees of Rick Perry's and the American Family Association's (AFA) The Response event in Houston are human, there was an abundance of contradiction in Reliant Stadium. A lot of good comedy material, too. But too much sadness to ignore.
The AFA might call itself Christian but its intolerance has gotten the organization labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of the nature of written and verbal comments from AFA leaders about gays and Jews. (Both are hell-bound, apparently; Jews because, well, you know, and gays because they have "chosen" an alternative lifestyle.) Of course, AFA says it loves gays and is praying for them to understand the sinful choices they have made. And Jews, well, you know. If AFA believes you can "pray away the gay," can you get rid of your Jewishness, too?
Sounded like AFA founder James Dobson was also praying for President Obama. The prayers are needed since Dobson equated Obama's policies and his administration with the Nazis, but in a kind of loving, forgiving, Christian sort of way. Anyone looking at the crowd in the stadium, though, might have recognized the borderline mass hysteria as something they had seen on The History Channel's black and white films of the rising Reich, arms raised, chanting, stomping feet, tears.
Perry, who wants to replace the president (regardless of his lack of a campaign proclamation), also prayed for Mr. Obama. He quoted scripture and mentioned suffering but he didn't mention all of the agony in Texas. As Hair Almighty took the stage with a nuclear smile and a red power tie, he had much to pray about, and most of it was in the state he has been running for more than a decade.
According to researchers in the Texas Legislative Study Group, 17.3 percent of the state's population lives in poverty, 4.26 million people. 66 percent of Latino children and 59 percent of black children live in low-income families, compared to 25 percent of white children. 28 percent or 6.1 million of the population of Texas is uninsured, the largest share of uninsured in the nation. And if you are a woman with a child and in financial straits, don't come knocking on Uncle Tex's door for a handout. In 2010, the average monthly benefit for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) recipients in Texas was $26.86, the lowest in the country. Yes, that's for a month. You want more, you better pray. But so far that hasn't worked in Texas.
Perry didn't pray about any of that or the fact that Texas is 50th in workers' compensation, 50th in percent of women receiving prenatal care, 50th in percent of non-elderly women with health care, 50th in per capita spending on mental health, 49th in per capita state spending on Medicaid. Texas was sad before he became governor but Rick Perry has turned the state into a tragedy.
Maybe that's because we aren't all doing our share to help our neighbors or perhaps we aren't praying enough to be heard. Perry, of course, wants to privatize much of government and believes that faith-based groups, individuals, and non-profits can help reduce the burden on government. This is what you'd expect of a conservative man of faith, and that he would do his personal part to help the less fortunate (since the government he is running clearly does not give a damn about "the least of these"). The evidence in Rick Perry's tax returns, however, indicates he may have missed some Sunday school classes on giving.
In 2007, the governor of Texas earned $1,092,810. According to his IRS form, he gave $90 of that total to his church. He was a tad more generous in 2008 when the governor's adjusted gross income was $277,667 and he donated $2,850 to his church. Perry was feeling less magnanimous in 2009 when he earned $200,370 but shows all zeroes as a line item for church donations. For the years 2000-2009, Governor Perry's adjusted gross income on his tax returns adds up to $2,694,253 and church donations are $14,293. He did, however, manage to itemize each article of clothing and household items he donated to Goodwill, which amounted to a deduction of $30,768 during those same nine years.
Perry isn't exactly troubled by daily expenses, either. He lives in a $10,000 per month mansion, which the state is leasing for him since fire destroyed the historic residence of the governor. No fretting about making mortgage payments, and health care is provided, along with all transportation costs, and he does not pay for utilities, food, or property taxes. Maybe he could have edged up those church donations a bit without much personal suffering.
The information about Perry and the state he is destroying indicates he is both mean and stingy, and at The Response he proved that he hangs out with organizations that promote hatred against certain types of people. They all claim tolerance, of course, and inclusion, but take the folding chairs out of Reliant Stadium and roll out some prayer rugs for a Muslim Day of Prayer for America and see what happens. Perry has used his office, his tax-paid time, state letterhead, and the Texas brand to promote a single religion. The man who would protect the Constitution as president begins his campaign with a gross violation of one of its most basic tenets.
Let's hope he doesn't have a prayer.
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