img-cs-newt-gingrich_1657318053A national anti-gay group has paid to quietly train more than ten thousand pastors across the nation to support socially conservative political movements, and some GOP heavyweights are lending a hand, according to the New York Times.

The American Family Association, which is bankrolling the effort, has produced so much demonizing vitriol in its condemnation of homosexuality that last year it earned designation as a “hate group” by the respected Southern Poverty Law Center.  Indeed, SPLC reported that Bryan Fischer, AFA’s director of analysis for government and policy, has said homosexuals were responsible for the Holocaust, and he’s advocated for criminalizing homosexual behavior and forcing gays and lesbians to undergo reparative therapy.

Now AFA is hoping these trainings energize the religious right and get socially conservative pastors to exhort their flocks to vote to restore what they see as the biblical roots of American government.  So far the meetings have been organized in Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and several times in Iowa, where a recent gathering drew several high-profile Republicans said to be considering running for president, according to the Times:

They heard Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and like Mr. Huckabee a possible 2012 presidential candidate, say that constitutional liberties like the right to bear arms were ordained by God. They heard how to promote “biblically informed” political advocacy by churchgoers within the confines of federal tax law.
The other possible candidates who spoke were Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

They heard Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and like Mr. Huckabee a possible 2012 presidential candidate, say that constitutional liberties like the right to bear arms were ordained by God. They heard how to promote “biblically informed” political advocacy by churchgoers within the confines of federal tax law.

The other possible candidates who spoke were Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

The regional meetings are organized as discrete temporary coalitions, but the AFA is said to be footing most of the cost for transportation and lodging for the pastors and their spouses, who are instructed in ways to become more politically active from the pulpit without running afoul of IRS rules that forbid tax-exempt churches from advocating for specific candidates.