First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the religious associations of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), whose burgeoning presidential campaign makes his extremist allies that much more significant well outside the Lone Star State.

Right Wing Watch ran a report this week on the religious leaders Perry chooses to pal around with, as evidenced by last week’s Christian prayer rally — called “The Response” — and its radical co-sponsors like the American Family Association and Family Research Council.

A major chunk of [last week’s event] was given over to Mike Bickle, who runs the International House of Prayer (IHOP) movement, which recruits young people into “radical” devotion to prayer and fasting. Yes, he’s the guy who said that Oprah is paving the way for the Antichrist. Bickle’s associate Lou Engle has organized a series of stadium events pushing prayer, fasting, and politics under the banner of “The Call,” which provided the model for “The Response.” Bickle and Engle are hard-core dominionists who believe they are ushering in a new Christian church which will take its rightful place of dominion over every aspect of government and society. […]

And lest anyone think that Perry’s religious agenda is limited to social issues, he made clear that a rigid conservative economic agenda was central to his spiritual mission. […]

Perry used the event to let right-wing religious voters and churches nationwide know that for those who see politics as spiritual warfare, he is the warrior they have been waiting for.

For more along these lines, the Texas Observer had a very interesting piece last month — “Rick Perry’s Army of God” — about a group of radical Christian leaders with some deeply strange ideas about government and their ties to the governor of Texas.

If you thought Jeremiah Wright made for interesting campaign fodder in 2008, Perry’s faith-based associations offer even more eyebrow-raising opportunities.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, the head of what he calls the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was sentenced to life in prison this week, after a jury found his fathered a child with a 15-year-old and sexually assaulted a 12-year-old. (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

* And grocery store chain Whole Foods unveiled a new line of Halal-certified frozen food, to coincide with Ramadan, but the corporate office also sent a message to all of its U.S. stores in one region: “It is probably best that we don’t specifically call out or ‘promote’ Ramadan…. We should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered ‘Celebrating or promoting’ Ramadan.” The fear of complaints from the right appears to be having an effect. [Update: It was originally reported that “all” Whole Foods stores had been contacted, but it turns out, it was stores limited to one region.]

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.