The leader of a Kansas gay rights group on Monday expressed outrage that Gov. Sam Brownback was going to a highly publicized prayer event put on by anti-gay groups.
Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition, said organizers of “The Response” at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Saturday are beyond extremists when it comes to anti-homosexual rhetoric, and Brownback should not be associating with them.
“These aren’t groups who just don’t want gays to get married,” Witt said. “Everyone knows where Sam Brownback stands on that; he doesn’t like it. But this is about showing support for organizations that would rather see us dead.”
In June, Brownback’s office said the Republican governor had accepted an invitation from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a Republican and possible presidential candidate, to attend the event which is being dubbed “a call to prayer for a nation in crisis.” Brownback’s office said he would be going at his own expense.
Since then, however, Brownback’s office has been quiet on the subject. In recent days, the governor’s office would not confirm his plans, only to say that Brownback would be on vacation during that time.
Several groups that have leadership roles in the event have gained national attention.
The American Family Association is listed as a host of the event, and several of its leaders are involved in putting it on. Mississippi-based AFA describes itself as a pro-family group that opposes abortion and homosexuality. It is currently calling for a boycott of Home Depot because AFA says the company has sponsored and participated in gay pride parades.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated AFA as a hate group, citing statements about homosexuality, such as a direct mail fundraising appeal that said, “For the sake of our children and society, we must oppose the spread of homosexual activity! Just as we must oppose murder, stealing and adultery!”
In 2010, Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy at AFA, said, “Homosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.”
“The Response” leadership team also includes several members of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., and TheCall.
Anti-homosexual minister Lou Engle is a leader with the International House of Prayer, co-founder of TheCall and has had a long association with Brownback.
Engle and other anti-gay ministers from the United States have been accused by gay rights and religious groups of attempting to increase anti-gay sentiment in Uganda, where officials have been considering legislation that would criminalize homosexuality up to the point of including the death penalty for gays and lesbians.
A video of Engle speaking against the “homosexual agenda” at a rally in Uganda has been widely viewed. Engle has said his comments were misunderstood.
“I don’t know if extremist is a strong enough word,” Witt said of some involved in the prayer event in Houston. “Supporting the death penalty for gays, that’s not extreme; it’s inhumane.”
Brownback and Engle have known each other for years and for a seven-month period shared a condo in Washington, D.C., when Brownback was a U.S. senator. Engle said he had dreamed that Brownback would be president of the United States. Brownback ran for the Republican Party nomination for president in 2007 but was unsuccessful.
In 2009, Brownback participated with Engle in a “PrayerCast” in which participants prayed against the passage of federal health care reform. Brownback has also spoken at rallies with Engle.
But last year, Brownback’s relationship with Engle became an issue during the governor’s race when the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, called on Brownback to denounce Engle.
At the time, Brownback said he disagreed with some of Engle’s statements and that he hadn’t spoken to Engle for several months. Brownback said in the past he worked with Engle on measures that called for apologies for the treatment of American Indians and blacks.
Witt said even though Brownback is going to “The Response” on his own personal time that doesn’t matter. “He’s the governor, full-time. And he’s everybody’s governor, not just the governor of the right-wing base,” he said.