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Leader of Hispanic Organization at Center of Sought-After Voters

Leader of Hispanic Organization at Center of Sought-After Voters

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(CNN) - For the Rev. Sam Rodriguez, who leads a Hispanic organization that represents more than 24,000 Christian congregations, the future of American Evangelicalism is clear. "If you are an Evangelical Christian, the fastest growing demographic in the American Evangelical community is embedded in the Hispanic church," said Rodriguez, leader of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference. Rodriguez is in Houston this week preparing for a leading role in Saturday's Christian prayer, "The Response," which organizers describe as "a call to prayer." Described by Rodriguez as an answer to the country's moral crisis, it's already being viewed through the lens of the 2012 presidential election. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, considered a potential GOP presidential candidate, has endorsed the event. Rodriguez said Perry asked him several weeks ago to join as a co-chair with other evangelical leaders who will be speaking and offering prayers in Houston. The daylong gathering to be held at Reliant Stadium is expected to draw at least 8,000 participants. While Rodriguez admits there's no way to remove the planned day of prayer from 2012 politics, he said the event is not a political endorsement of any candidate. "It cannot be political. It cannot be partisan," Rodriguez said. "It needs to focus on God and humility, repentance and prayer and that's why I signed on." Rodriguez's participation is important given the millions of Hispanics who attend services in one of the many Evangelical churches that make up the NHLC. The California-based minister recognizes that both parties have been courting him, eager to reach an important political constituency. His organization has started a voter sign-up drive, called Fuerza 2011, which encourages Hispanics to vote. Yet, Rodriguez insists his role is nonpartisan. "I think my role is to speak truth to both the donkey and the elephant, to do it with integrity, to do it with civility." Republicans and Democrats alike are eager to court the Latino population he represents. According to CNN exit polls, then Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, won two-thirds of the Hispanic vote in 2008. In last year's midterm elections, Democrats won 60% of the Hispanic vote. Rodriguez said he has no intention of endorsing a political candidate. Yet he recognizes the importance his congregation will have in the upcoming election. And he's not beholden to Democrats. "I want to speak truth to the Democratic Party and say, 'You all gave us a promise in 2008 and you failed on your promise. You never passed immigration reform in the first 100 days, never passed it in the first three years of the Obama administration'," Rodriguez said. He has a similarly strong warning for Republicans, saying, "Without the Hispanic vote, the Republican Party will be a minority party for decades to come." While Rodriguez supports a legal path to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S., many of his Evangelical colleagues have a different view. Rodriguez hopes that Saturday's event will begin a conversation that gives Hispanics a greater role within the Evangelical community. "We are the fastest growing segment," Rodriguez said. "In other words we are the future of American Evangelicalism. For you to support the idea of deporting 11 million immigrants you may very well be deporting the future of American Christianity." Rodriguez said Texas is a part of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference largest chapters, which represent 4,000 churches and he expects many members to attend Saturday's "Response." **Click Here for Link to CNN Article**