Americans United for Separation of Church and State today sent a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, urging him to drop his sponsorship and promotion of a fundamentalist Christian prayer rally.
Perry initiated the Aug. 6 event, called The Response, and has invited the nation’s 49 other governors to endorse it and attend. The day-long Christian rally is scheduled to take place at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Attendees are asked to fast and bring Bibles.
On The Response’s website, Perry writes, “Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”
Americans United is urging Perry to stop using his public office for the advancement of his personal religious beliefs.
“Rick Perry is sounding more like a TV preacher than a governor,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “He needs to stop meddling in religion and focus on things like the budget and job creation. His reckless mixture of religion and government is as insensitive as it is reckless.”
In a letter faxed to Perry today, Lynn wrote, “To be blunt, you have overstepped your constitutional bounds. I am a Christian minister and would like to remind you that it is not the job of government officials to call people to pray, recommend that they fast or prod them to take part in other religious activities. That job belongs to me and my fellow clergy. We are capable of doing it without government ‘help’ or interference. We are offended when you attempt to usurp our role.”
The Response’s website includes a statement of faith that reflects fundamentalism. It states several times that the event is designed to promote Christian principles.
Lynn told Perry that he needs to remember that he is the governor of a state whose residents come from many different faiths and some who follow no spiritual path at all.
“Your job as a public servant is to represent all of the people of Texas – even those with whom you personally disagree,” Lynn wrote. “Your promotion of this event sends the message that certain Texans – those who are in sympathy with the religious/political sentiments being expressed by the rally’s sponsors – are better than others. This is a dangerous message for any government official to send.”
Lynn noted that the event is being promoted by several extreme Religious Right leaders and organizations, among them the American Family Association, evangelist Lou Engle and Pastor Jim Garlow.