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Religious Right Watch

The Texas Restoration Project

The Texas Restoration Project has become a model for efforts to recruit conservative, evangelical pastors into political campaigns across the country. Similar groups in other states often go by the name “Renewal Project,” as in Iowa Renewal Project and Florida Renewal Project. In nearly all cases thus far, these groups have served to mobilize conservative pastors in support of Republican candidates for public office.

The Texas Restoration Project debuted in 2005 with six so-called “Pastors Policy Briefings” in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth. Thousands of pastors and their spouses attended the events, with their lodging and food covered by the Restoration Project.

The Austin events stretched over two days, while the others were half-day affairs. Republican officeholders and politicians especially Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke at the events along with prominent and lesser religious-right leaders such as David Barton of WallBuilders and the Rev. Rod Parsley of Ohio.

Wealthy donors to Gov. Perry’s political campaigns bankrolled the Restoration Project events through the private Houston-based Niemoller Foundation. The Texas Freedom Network asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the Niemoller Foundation had violated its tax-exempt status by engaging in partisan politics. The IRS ultimately determined that there was insufficient evidence provided to show that the Niemoller Foundation’s funding of the Texas Restoration Project’s events was legally improper.

Since 2005, so-called “Renewal Projects” have hosted similar pastor events featuring selected Republican politicians in presidential battleground states across the country, including Iowa, Florida and South Carolina. The chief organizer for these Renewal Project and Texas Restoration Project events has been David Lane, a longtime political organizer tied to the religious right.

TFN Resources

A 2006 report on the Texas Restoration Project from the TFN Education Fund (pages 13-16)
Press release about an IRS complaint filed by TFN against the Niemoller Foundation
Supporting documents for TFN’s complaint to the IRS
More about the Texas Restoration Project and Other State-Based Renewal Projects