Texas governor Rick Perry's presidential campaign is running television ads accusing the Obama administration of fighting a "war against religion.'" The ads also accuse Obama of giving more priority to gay rights than the economy.
Perry's ad, titled "Strong," which promises to end President Obama's "war on religion," targets Iowa's social conservatives who vote in large numbers in the caucuses, McClatchy notes.
Perry says in the ad,
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian. But you don’t have to be in the pew every Sunday to know that 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."
Perry, according to McClatchy, had expressed his views on Obama ending the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving in the U.S. military. Perry said he thought that the policy was best for the military and that as far as he could see it was working well before it was ended in September.
Gay right groups have reacted to Perry's hostile ad comments on gay issues. Dan Rafter, spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said,
"He's taking a fringe view and making it sound like it's mainstream. It's insulting to active-duty service members who are putting their lives on the line."The Washington Post reports Bill Burton, former Obama aide, tweeted that the Perry ad is "astonishingly intolerant."
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, a Republican gay rights group in Washington, said the Perry ads are a sign of his desperation. According to LaSalvia, Perry is "so desperate for anyone to pay attention to him. He's going after a portion of the electorate that's so tiny because everyone else has written him off."
LaSalvia thinks the Perry ads are a distraction at a time Republicans should be focusing on defeating Obama. He says:
"He's made the decision to launch a war on gay soldiers and gay Americans. Our party should be coming together to pick a nominee who can replace the failed president, and this type of rhetoric and language does nothing to accomplish that goal."
Politico.com quotes Sharon Groves, head of Human Rights Campaign's religion and faith program, saying,
"We cannot be in the business of forcing people to choose between who they are, who they love, and their faith. Rick Perry’s rhetoric presumes that you can’t be Christian and supportive of LGBT people. Yet many Christians see in Jesus’s example a call to love and support their LGBT neighbors. Rick Perry is trying to claim religion for political motives, but it won’t work. Our faith is too precious to be used as a cynical tool for political ends.”
Rick Perry's campaign has openly targeted socially conservative evangelical voters. His campaign has taken a strong stand on social issues other Republican presidential candidates have been reluctant to address directly, especially with economic issues having become of greater concern to voters at a time in which unemployment rate has risen to 8.6 percent.
According to spokesman for Perry campaign Ray Sullivan, "The ad is really aimed at the Obama administration and their assault on religion and traditional values. Many of our traditional values are being either assaulted or abandoned by the Obama administration."
Sullivan admits, however, that the economy is the biggest concern to voters at the moment. He said:
"They (Americans) are concerned about jobs, excess in Washington and overhauling Washington, D.C., and getting back on track. Our campaign has discussed and will continue to discuss those important issues."
Some pundits say, however, that given that Republican candidates are generally not far apart on economic issues, Perry's emphasis on social issues is a strategy to make him stand out and draw conservative voters from Romney and Gingrich. His campaign also targets socially conservative supporters of Herman Cain whose campaign ended last week in an avalanche of allegations of sexual misconduct.