Religion

Judge Clears Way for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Prayer Rally

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HOUSTON, TX -- The Freedom From Religion Foundation lacks the standing to stop Gov. Rick Perry from leading an Aug. 6 prayer rally in Houston and publishing his proclamation for "A Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation," a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller tossed a complaint filed by the foundation and five of its Houston members. The group sought to bar Perry, in his official capacity as Texas governor, from orchestrating a prayer rally set to take place on Aug. 6 at Houston's Reliant Stadium. It also sought to enjoin Perry from continuing to disseminate his proclamation for "A Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation."

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The foundation describes itself in the complaint as "a nonprofit membership organization that advocates for the separation of state and church and educates on matters of non-theism."

It goes on to say that the foundation "competes ideologically with churches and religious organizations, such as the American Family Association, an organization that advocates and promotes a rabid evangelical Christian agenda that is hostile to non-believers, non-Christians, and other protected groups, including gays and lesbians."

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The American Family Association has joined Perry in hosting the event and is footing the bill, according to the complaint.

The complaint says Perry's role in the prayer rally violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, but Judge Miller disagreed.

By seeking to squelch the governor's proclamation and official participation in the prayer rally, the foundation and its members were asking for "two types of specific injunctive relief that have never been granted by a federal court," the 10-page order states.

"They have not shown a particularized, concrete injury from these invitations," Miller wrote of the plaintiffs, arguing that the complaint lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution.

Miller listed actions that the foundation and its members could take outside of litigation. "The plaintiffs are not without a remedy," he wrote. "Persons offended by an elected official's speech are free to give voice to their feelings of offense and exclusion in a number of ways. They can choose not to attend and not to pray. They can also exercise their free speech rights and their right to vote, among others."

The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, saying "this court's finding that plaintiffs lack standing is not a denial of a remedy - it is just a denial of remedy in the courts."