AUSTIN, Texas, August 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Texas governor Rick Perry is getting ready to step onto the national stage and officially announce his intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States. 

Perry, 61, is set to emerge on a crowded stage of GOP contenders, and many of them are wondering if he will be the “unity candidate” behind whom Republican, fiscal conservative, social conservative, religious, and Tea-Party voters will rally.

Current polls show that Perry’s emergence into the race would put him in direct contention with Romney. A USA Today/Gallup poll found Romney leading by 24 percent to Perry’s 17 percent, and a McClatchy/Marist poll showed Romney leading 21 percent to Perry’s 18 percent. 

Without even having declared yet, the possibility of a Perry candidacy has already shaken up the GOP race. With the spotlight on the Lone Star governor, the GOP faithful are getting a better look at the man who may be the one to challenge President Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012.


Growing up Christian

Perry has been an Evangelical Christian since his youth, and often attends Lake Hills Church in west Austin, a church that has a membership of 3000 worshippers.

According to the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden, Perry grew up as the fifth generation of Texans to work the land in Paint Creek, which he described as a place with “the country values of church, family, neighborliness, thrift and hard work that now seem part of a bygone America beyond places like West Texas.” (See full story here)

According to Perry, the three things to do in his hometown were “school, church, and Boy Scouts.” Perry is an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the famously traditional values-centered youth organization.

It’s an honor he hasn’t left behind with his youth: Perry wrote in praise of the Scouts and their principles in his 2008 book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting for.


Faith in the public square

Upon entering politics, Perry has maintained a record of defending religious expression in the public sphere.

He supported and signed a Texas bill in 2007, the “Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act,” clarifying that students and school employees alike had the right to express religious views in public, and that religious groups had the same right of access to public facilities as secular groups.

Perry advocated giving Texas schools the ability to teach intelligent design theory in addition to evolution.

He has also shown a conservative scientific viewpoint by strongly opposing the theory of man-made global warming, citing the lack of scientific consensus on the root causes of earth’s climate changes. 

But one thing that distinguishes Perry from the typical right-wing politician is his unabashedly public prayer life: the governor has called on Texans to pray and even fast in response to state crises or disasters. 

When wildfires were raging during a drought in Texas this spring, Perry released an official proclamation over the Easter weekend asking people of all faiths to pray for rain for three days, and to pray for firemen and other officials in danger.


The Response

“The Response”, last Saturday’s non-denominational Christian gathering in Houston, was Perry’s idea in December, after he won his third term as governor and before he began publicly courting a run for the presidency.

The event became a Christian invitation to people of all faiths to join in a day of prayer and fasting because the nation was facing a “historic crisis” that “demands a historic response from the church.” 

“We must, as a people, return to the faith and hope of our fathers,” said Perry. “The ancient paths of great men were blazed in prayer - the humility of the truly great men of history was revealed in their recognition of the power and might of Jesus to save all who call on His great name.”

While only 8000 persons had registered in advance for the event at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, over 30,000 participants showed up.

But Perry didn’t stop there: the Texas leader invited all other 49 US governors to participate. Only one accepted in person, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott participated by video.

Perry kept the event apolitical. However, political analysts noted that the event can only strengthen his image among Evangelical voters when he goes campaigning in early-decision states like Iowa and South Carolina.

(Perry’s speech at the Response can be viewed here)


States’ Rights and defending marriage

Perry is increasingly famous for championing the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution, by which states are granted whatever powers are not explicitly reserved to the federal government.

Despite a conservative record on marriage - Perry supported Texas’s 2005 amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman - his 10th Amendment loyalties led to some confusion among pro-family advocates when he indicated that New York’s decision to legalize same-sex “marriage” in June was “their business, and that’s fine with me.”

Perry later clarified that he was not defending same-sex “marriage,” but the principle allowing states to decide without intrusion by the federal government. He added that he supported a federal marriage amendment, which would mean an agreement by 3/4 of the states, to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman nationwide.

The Texas governor also defended Texas’s sodomy law, which the US Supreme Court struck down in 2002 in Lawrence v. Texas


Rick Perry vs. Mitt Romney

Rick Perry may emerge as the GOP’s anti-Romney candidate for another reason: the two men have a rivalry that stems partially from a quarrel over, of all things, the Boy Scouts.

While the Scouts have resisted enormous pressure from homosexual groups and their political allies to incorporate homosexual youth and Scout leaders into their ranks, Romney has argued that the Scouts should admit homosexual Scoutmasters. 

Romney, also an Eagle Scout, had argued in favor of allowing homosexuals or anyone “regardless of their sexual orientation” into the Scouts during a debate with Sen. Ted Kennedy in his 1994 Senate race.

Perry has also accused Romney, as CEO of Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics, of denying Scouts volunteering opportunities there in order not to offend liberals in Massachusetts, where Romney was poised to run for governor.

Perry wrote in On My Honor that Romney “has parted ways with the Scouts on its policies over the involvement of gay individuals in Scout activities.”

Some supporters said that it was not Romney, but the Salt Lake Olympic committee’s minimum age of 18 for volunteers that was to blame. However, the rule nonetheless marked a huge break from past Olympics where Boy Scouts have enjoyed a public uniformed presence.

Next: Rick Perry’s pro-life legacy.