Although organizers of The Response, an Aug. 6 Houston prayer rally featuring Texas Gov. Rick Perry, insisted that the event was not political, an email sent on Friday has been jumped on by critics as evidence that this was not the case.
Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association group that Perry requested to host The Response, sent an email to all of the registered rally participants, according to The Houston Chronicle. In the message, Wildmon presented a new initiative to potential voters.
"Today, I want to introduce you to Champion the Vote (CTV), a friend of AFA whose mission is to mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012," Wildmon wrote. “CTV's research has shown that it takes only 5 million voters to influence the outcome of an election. This is a doable goal...We can make a difference, one by one, multiplied across the nation.”
The American Family Association founder said although the Houston rally was not a political event, it was the start of what could be a change in the country. Kathy Miller, a member of the Texas Freedom Network that monitors conservative politics, said she believed the recent rally and email were political, despite the claims from Wildmon.
"I'm most troubled that the claims made by Gov. Perry and Response supporters that The Response was only about prayer and fasting seem to have been only part of the story,” Miller said. “I think The Response was sponsored by a current presidential candidate, and those folks were exposed to the early campaign propaganda for that candidate, and now they're being asked to register their friends and themselves to vote. It seems to suggest that The Response was as much about launching Gov. Perry's presidential campaign as anything else."
Although Perry announced his bid for presidency shortly after the prayer rally, Erica Bearse, the spokesman for The Response and Perry campaign member said the email did not prove the event to be political.
"The Perry campaign hasn't used any of the data from the event for any type of political purpose," Bearse said, according to The Houston Chronicle. "The AFA sending out an email to register people - if that is political, then I guess so is the activity of the secretary of states' offices in all 50 states."
Despite the debate surrounding the intention of The Response, Wildmon hopes events like the rally will change the country for the better.
"The Response was just the beginning of a nationwide initiative to return America to the principles on which she was founded, with God at the center of our nation," Wildmon said, according to Houston Chronicle reports.