Remarks by Gov. Rick Perry at 2009 Values Voter Summit

September 19, 2009

NOTE: Gov. Perry often deviates from prepared remarks.

Thank you Tony [Perkins, President, Family Research Council] and thank you for the good work you and your folks at the Family Research Council do to remind Americans what matters most.

I have to admit that coming to Washington D.C. is a bit like entering the belly of the beast for conservatives like us, but there is strength in our numbers so I’m glad to be with this like-minded group. Looking around the room, I feel a little like those wildlife biologists must feel when they watch an endangered species re-enter a habitat that had previously been decimated by a predator. I’m not saying conservatism has gone extinct in Washington D.C., but I’d say the assault on our shared values has qualified us for inclusion on the endangered species list, or at least “threatened” status.

It’s unfortunate that many of the people who serve in this town ran for office as conservatives then got to Washington and started spending and legislating like liberals. Fortunately, we have defenders like you on our side. If not for the efforts of the people in this room and the organizations you represent, our conservative values could have ended up as little more than a historical exhibit at the Smithsonian.

Instead, thanks to your unshakable devotion and a ruling party that is publicly confirming everything about their ideology that we have long known to be true, conservatives across the country are getting back onto the same page – returning to the first principles of our nation.

I believe the power of those foundational ideas has been driving the TEA Party movement, and driving critics on the left insane. It makes them very uncomfortable when we point out that the policies being fast-tracked here in the halls of power are not some enlightened proclamations from on high, but legitimate threats to our freedom, our finances and our future.

Contrary to what the liberal establishment might say about us, we are not preaching rebellion, subversion or insurrection, but expressing our love for the greatest country on earth and the God-ordained principles on which it was founded. We are part of a growing movement in this nation of sensible people from every race, creed and political persuasion who cannot abide the ongoing assault on the values that made our nation great and the freedoms that set us apart from the rest of the world.

Folks at this summit not only understand the importance of liberty, but love it so much we’ll take a stand and raise our voices in its defense.

I don’t have to tell you that our fellow Americans are having a tough go of things in this current economy and that these problems aren’t going to fix themselves, but I’m at a loss to explain how Washington can justify the approach they’re taking.

If anyone here is starting a business, thinking you can borrow your way out of debt and spend your way to prosperity, you might want to consider taking an Economics 101 class. I’d suggest the same class for the folks in Washington and, while we’re at it, a refresher course on the U.S. Constitution.

Our liberties would be a whole lot safer if these leaders were sitting in a classroom instead of rampaging through the halls of power, overturning our rights, one after the other, making choices that would leave our Founding Fathers scratching their heads. The visionaries who cast the framework for our nation put limits on the federal government for a reason – because they’d seen the dangerous British example of what happens when an unresponsive government goes unchecked.

Those limits that are so clearly laid out in the Constitution aren’t slowing down the folks here inside the Beltway, as they continue eroding our rights, wasting our tax dollars, and burying our children under a mountain of debt.

It is well past time for us to halt the endless intrusions into our lives, put a stop to the out-of-control spending, and restore our commitment to a shared set of values. I’m talking about those truths that are self-evident, principles that originated in God’s natural law, values that our fighting men and women have died to defend all over the world.

I’m talking about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m talking about the uniquely American freedom to plot one’s own course and pursue one’s own dream without fear of government interference. We should at least be allowed to choose what doctor we want and not be limited to whatever some bureaucrat in a windowless office chooses for us or our family.

The federal government has its hand too far into our pockets, its nose too far into our business, and its fingers too deep into its own ears to hear what sensible people like us are saying.

We know that the route to success is lower taxes, smaller government and freedom for every individual. I know that because I’ve seen that approach work in Texas. Just three months ago, we wrapped up our biannual legislative session with a balanced budget, a tax cut for 40,000 small businesses and a Rainy Day Fund that is projected to grow to $9 billion by 2011. Compare that to California’s $24 billion deficit and a federal deficit approaching $1.6 trillion.

As a Texan, I’m understandably biased, but I think our whole country could use a dose of Texas-style fiscal discipline. While they’re at it, I’d love for the powers-that-be in this town to take a closer look at the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states the preeminence of states’ rights in the structure of our country.

The time has come to assert those rights, and remind the federal government that it was created to serve us, not the other way around. When Washington takes over anything besides its basic responsibilities like national defense, experience tells us not to expect much. And don’t get confused—this is a bi-partisan phenomenon.

Whether you’re talking an abysmal failure with border security or the bailout trainwreck at the Treasury, Washington should leave state-level problems to the states. That is why I have been telling anyone who will listen that the states should no longer stand by as our pockets are picked, our children’s future is mortgaged, and our rights are taken away.

As our nation endures the turmoil of colliding value systems and an unprecedented increase in the size, intrusiveness and audacity of the federal government, Americans are returning more and more to the words of our Founding Fathers and, hopefully, the faith that guided their lives.

As you are painfully aware, people of faith and their ideas are not exactly welcomed with open arms into the arena of public discourse. We are told that our deeply-held beliefs, the core principles that shaped our nation, are merely outdated notions, irrelevant to clear-thinking members of an enlightened society. I disagree.

Given the high stakes of the current debates, people of faith need to be more vocal than ever as our culture and our government wrestle with the essential questions of the human experience, as they consider limits on the exercise of our God-given freedoms.

Whether that’s forcing us to violate the conditions of Proverbs 22 by putting up our security for others’ debts or using our federal tax dollars for abortion, people of conscience have real problems with how our country is being led.

I am proud to say that things are a little different in Texas when it comes to traditional values. Our citizens showed they still support the traditional definition of marriage by ratifying the Texas Marriage Amendment to the Texas Constitution in 2005. Texans are also largely pro-life, as demonstrated by our Prenatal Protection Act, our Woman's Right to Know Act and parental notification and consent laws.

I am committed to standing up to an administration that marks its first week in power by overturning the “Mexico City policy” which had long prohibited U.S. tax dollars from funding abortions overseas. As a pro-life Texan, I would sure like to see our national laws reflect our shared priorities. In short, our work is far from done.

Lately, I have found myself returning to a book titled the Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. In it, he shares his views on the foundational elements of our nation, placing a special emphasis on the importance of faith in God and I think, undeniably, a source of America’s remarkable success. He asserts that natural law, God’s law, is the basis of our nation’s laws.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote about the laws which govern in the affairs of men which are “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” The author goes on to say that “without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.”

Here’s a quote from THE founding father of our nation, George Washington on that issue. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports and let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

There are many elected leaders in our nation and some folks who simply get attention because they’re loud who would tell you that religion is essentially illegal and has no place in the civic discourse. For those who would label such expressions of faith as acts of intolerance, I have a question.

Isn’t the very act of shutting people of faith out of the public square the definition of intolerance?

These same folks also repeat the myth that you can’t legislate morality. Like all great lies, that sentiment contains a grain of truth because passing a law never changed anybody’s values or made somebody love their fellow human being. But taking the position you can’t legislate morality is to abdicate all responsibility for the moral consequences of the laws we make.

If you can’t legislate morality, then you can’t lock up a criminal, or let one go free. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t NOT legislate morality.

That conclusion, then, begs the question: whose code of morality will inspire the laws that leave a lasting imprint on our society? We are a free, pluralistic society and I agree government should not endorse a particular religious view.

But it is quite different, and I would argue extreme, to say that our laws should not be inspired and informed by the views of the faithful. Freedom of religion is not to be confused with freedom from religion.

If you would like to join me in this quest to defend freedom here in our country, I hope you’ll take out your cell phones and text the word FREEDOM to 95613. When you text FREEDOM to 95613, we’ll keep you posted on our efforts to defend 10th Amendment rights and hold Washington accountable for their actions.

As the powers-that-be in this town devise new and expensive ways to intrude on our lives, our family rights and our livelihoods, we must become even more vigilant. People of faith must not be lulled into complacency, browbeaten into silence, or frustrated into inaction. Instead, we must heed the calling of our faith to change the face of our state and nation.

As we take the risk of speaking the truth, defending the defenseless, and standing fast on our values, we can never forget that it is not about us. It’s about the God who made us.

We owe it to ourselves, our children and our nation to continue exercising our 1st amendment rights, and shining the bright light of truth on our leaders so that truth will set us free.

May God bless you all, may He bless your passionate efforts, and, through you, may He continue to bless this nation we love so much.

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