Perry believes non-Christians doomed
Governor shares views following sermon; rivals pounce
08:45 AM CST on Monday, November 6, 2006
By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News
SAN ANTONIO Gov. Rick Perry, after a God and country
sermon attended by dozens of political candidates
Sunday, said that he agreed with the minister that
non-Christians will be condemned to hell.
"In my faith, that's what it says, and I'm a believer
of that," the governor said.
Throughout much of the 90-minute service at
Cornerstone Church, Mr. Perry sat on the red-carpeted
stage next to the Rev. John Hagee. Mr. Perry was among
about 60 mostly Republican candidates who accepted the
invitation to be introduced to the megachurch's
congregation of about 1,500, plus a radio and TV
"If you live your life and don't confess your sins to
God almighty through the authority of Christ and his
blood, I'm going to say this very plainly, you're
going straight to hell with a nonstop ticket," Mr.
Hagee said during a service interspersed with
religious and patriotic videos.
Asked afterward at a political rally whether he agreed
with Mr. Hagee, the governor said he didn't hear
anything that he would take exception to.
He said that he believes in the inerrancy of the Bible
and that those who don't accept Jesus as their savior
will go to hell.
A little later at another stop, the Republican
incumbent clarified his beliefs.
"I don't know that there's any human being that has
the ability to interpret what God and his final
decision-making is going to be," Mr. Perry said.
"That's what the faith says. I understand, and my
caveat there is that an all-knowing God certainly
transcends my personal ability to make that judgment
black and white."
He added: "Before we get into Buddha and all the
others, I get a little confused there. But the fact is
that we live in a pluralistic world but our faith is
real personal. And my Christian faith teaches that the
way is through Jesus Christ."
His opponents in the race, campaigning across the
state with just two days to go until Election Day,
criticized the governor, saying his comments were
"He doesn't think very differently from the Taliban,
does he?" independent Kinky Friedman said.
Mr. Friedman, a Jew, said Mr. Perry's comment "hits
pretty close to home."
"Being obsessed with who's going to heaven and who's
going to hell is kind of a pathetic waste of time," he
Mr. Friedman, who often expresses admiration for Jesus
and calls himself "a Judeo-Christian," declined to say
whether he believes that accepting Jesus as one's
savior is the only path to salvation.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who attended Sunday services
at Harmony Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth,
said she disagreed with Mr. Perry.
"There are many ways to heaven. We're all sinners, and
we're all God's children," she said. "God's a uniter."
Democrat Chris Bell said that a state leader should
take more caution.
"God is the only one who can make the decision as to
who gets into the kingdom of heaven," he said.
Mr. Bell declined to say whether he agrees that only
followers of Jesus can go to heaven.
"I'm a Christian," he said. "Rick Perry certainly is
entitled to his beliefs, but when you're in public
office, you need to respect people of all faiths and
Asked whether Mr. Perry was wrong, Mr. Bell said: "The
voters will have to decide that."
In his sermon, Mr. Hagee exhorted the congregation to
fight moral weakness, to vote for religious people and
oppose same-sex marriage.
"Quit acting like a Bible-thumping wimp," he said.
He added: "God is the Supreme Court," prompting
applause from the governor.
Mr. Perry was raised in the Methodist church but also
frequently attended the Baptist church in the small
West Texas town of Paint Creek, where he grew up.
For this campaign, he has helped organize the Texas
Restoration Project, in which ministers are encouraged
to get their congregants politically involved in their
And he has already had to answer some complaints from
the Jewish community. Last year, he invited ministers
of all faiths to stand with him as he signed a law
requiring parental consent for abortion and a
constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The
Jewish representative was a member of a messianic
group that accepts Jesus as their savior.
Mr. Perry's predecessor as governor, George W. Bush,
took considerable criticism in 1993 for saying that
those who do not accept Jesus as their personal savior
cannot get to heaven. Later, when running for
president, Mr. Bush issued his regrets to the
Anti-Defamation League, saying his comments had been
Mr. Perry said Sunday that the acceptance of Christ is
what his faith teaches, and he could not abandon that
any more than anyone can pick which of the 10
Commandments they chose to follow. He would not argue
with God's wisdom, he said.
"I doubt if any one human being can grasp all of his
wisdom and issues of salvations and whether you're
going to get to go to heaven," Mr. Perry said.
Staff writers Robert T. Garrett in West University
Place, Gromer Jeffers Jr. in Eagle Pass and Wayne
Slater in Austin contributed to this report.