Jun 30, 2010

We are reminded on a regular basis of the strong influence the Religious Right carries in Louisiana – particularly over Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Here’s one more piece of evidence:  Jindal issued a proclamation declaring Sunday, June 27, a “Statewide Day of Prayer” seeking divine help in the oil spill crisis.

As my colleague Rob Boston said in a blog last week, it’s not unusual that Americans would turn to prayer during hard times. “Prayer is not the problem,” Boston wrote. “The problem comes from those promoting it.” It should be religious leaders, not politicians issuing the appeals for prayer.

Jindal was one of four  governors who issued prayer proclamations focused on the oil spill crisis. But his stands out for the scary ghost writers who apparently helped him with it.

For years, Americans United has been reporting on Jindal’s special relationship with the Religious Right, particularly his “like family” relationship with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a fundamentalist group that seeks to impose their doctrines by force of law. (In 2008, for example, the LFF succeeded in pushing through provisions in the Louisiana Science Education Act that could open the door for teaching creationist concepts in public schools.)

So I guess it should come as no surprise that Gene Mills, LFF’s executive director, is taking credit for orchestrating the drafting of Jindal’s prayer appeal.

In an e-mail sent July 24 to LFF supporters, Mills boasts: “Pastors, I requested that Governor Jindal initiate this call and have been assisted by David Barton of Wallbuilders, Tony Perkins of Family Research Council (FRC) and others in crafting the proclamation and implementing its directive.”

These are not the folks we want advising our elected officials.

Perkins is a former right-wing Louisiana state legislator who helped start the LFF. His current outfit, FRC, puts on the annual “Values Voter Summit,” where Religious Right activists gather in Washington to strategize and scheme. He is perhaps most infamous for buying a mailing list from notorious racist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke while helping in a state campaign.

Barton, as you may recall, is a fundamentalist activist and phony historian who was appointed to the “expert” panel to advise the Texas State Board of Education on developing new social studies standards. He partially succeeded in getting the Texas board to re-write history, and he appears to have Jindal wrapped around his finger, too.

Jindal asked Barton to accompany him on a campaign tour of Baptist churches in North Louisiana in October 2006. The governor then appeared as a guest for two days in a row on Barton’s “Wallbuilders Live!” and praised the Oral Roberts University graduate as a historian.

It’s clear that Jindal values the opinions of these men and seeks to please them over anyone else.

Louisiana professor and author (and AU Trustee) Barbara Forrest points out that Jindal never had time to squeeze in even one meeting or personal response to Louisiana citizens, scientists and teachers who asked him to protect sound science standards in the state’s public schools. Yet, he always seems free to mingle with the Religious Right – even spending his Sundays flying in a state-funded helicopter to visit churches all over the state – and not incidentally schmooze with the voters therein.

Jindal’s prayer proclamation, which can be found on his official state Web site, is just one more example of the governor’s constant sucking up to the Religious Right.

As Forrest writes, “The LFF asks, and the LFF receives.”