Not so Merry Christmas

December 08, 2011

With the Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential race occurring on January 3, many of the candidates are spending this Christmas season campaigning in the hawkeye state. One candidate is even using Christmas as part of his partisan political strategy. This week, Texas Governor Rick Perry released a new campaign ad in which he uses Christmas to attack President Barack Obama. While candidates will often issue Christmas wishes to voters during this time of year, Perry's use of Christmas as a partisan political weapon is a troubling form of confessional politics. In the ad, Perry declares his faith and attacks Obama's:

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know 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. As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.
Not only does the ad makes some factually inaccurate claims, but Perry wrongly uses religion to win votes. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister who leads the Interfaith Alliance (and who is cited in my book on confessional politics), reacted to Perry's ad:
Under the guise of spirituality, Perry has taken the manipulation of religion for partisan political advantage to an incredible, almost unbelievable extreme. With a smile on his face, he trades on personal attacks and provable untruths that reveal no understanding of the first amendment to the Constitution and very little respect for the integrity of religion. ... This is a race for commander-in-chief, not pastor-in-chief. His divisive and misleading message about faith has no place in a U.S Presidential campaign. ... Rather than fighting these supposed 'liberal attacks' on our religious heritage, he should focus on protecting that heritage by guarding religious freedom for everyone.
Amen! Interestingly, CNN noted that last year Perry sent out a card as governor that mentioned the "holiday season" instead Christmas. Yet, now he wants to be known as the one standing up for Christmas. Perry's ad is merely the latest example of him using confessional politics in hopes of garnering the Republican presidential nomination. As I have previously reported, Perry has privately met with conservative Christian leaders, led a public prayer rally just as he was officially entering the race, and has trekked to key conservative Christian institutions to speak. The problem for Perry is that his poor debate performances have done so much damage that he might not have a prayer of winning. Oops!

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