Correcting A Confused Columnist: Why Gov. Perry’s Exclusionary Prayer Event Is Wrong For Texas – And America

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been in the national news a lot lately – as I’m sure many of you have noticed.

Besides talk of his possible presidential run, the media has been very interested in the governor’s initiation and endorsement of “The Response,” a fundamentalist Christian prayer rally to be held in Houston Aug. 6.

Americans United has been interested in the event, as well. AU believes Perry’s sponsorship of a “Christians-only” event fails to honor our country’s religious diversity. His actions are divisive, unwelcoming and constitutionally inappropriate.

It’s even more outrageous when you consider that the outfit organizing the event, the American Family Association, has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Despite all these problems, there are still some out there who think Perry’s rally is a great idea.

Town Hall contributing writer Ben Shapiro is one of them. In a piece published online today, he makes a very unconvincing case for why all Americans of faith should support Perry and “The Response.”

This is how Shapiro starts things off:

“For those who couldn't tell from my name, I’m a Jew. Not only am I Jew, I’m an Orthodox Jew. I pray three times a day to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I keep kosher. I wear phylacteries in the morning, and I say the Shema at night.

And I love Texas Gov. Rick Perry's ‘The Response.’”

Shapiro then proceeds to tell us that because he believes in God, he has no problem with Rick Perry believing in God, too.

He writes, “The left has entered the same bizarre and fetishistic anti-religious frenzy they always do when someone on the right mentions God.”

Shapiro quotes the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United’s executive director, to prove this point (though I’m unclear how a minister is a good example of the “anti-religious”).

Lynn is not the only religious leader opposed to Perry’s event, either. Dozens of others have signed a statement opposing Perry’s actions, and I’m certain none of them have a problem with God.

It just goes to show Shapiro is missing the point. This isn’t about whether someone believes in God or not. This is about the separation of church and state.

Perry, in his official role as governor, has no business promoting one religious belief over another, or religion over non-religion. It’s not his job to orchestrate prayer rallies or to ask other government officials to join with him.

Besides, Shapiro should really do his homework before advocating for a group like the AFA – an organization that the majority of Christians wouldn’t even feel comfortable associating with.

This is the same group that called for a boycott of McDonald’s because the fast food chain said it welcomes gay families. It’s the same group that whines every year when retailers use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It’s the same group that chastised TV sitcoms for any and all sexual content (and, at one point in time, kept a record of every mention of sex in these shows).

The AFA’s founder and former president Donald E. Wildmon has also been accused of anti-Semitic rhetoric, receiving (and ignoring) letters from the Anti-Defamation League in the past.  The AFA’s journal has also reprinted articles from The Spotlight, a far-right, virulently anti-Semitic newspaper published by Willis Carto, a Holocaust "revisionist."

And, now, the group has told people who are not Christian (that includes you, Mr. Shapiro) that they aren’t welcome to speak at the Aug. 6 event because that would “invite false gods” and promote “idolatry.”

Yet Shapiro thinks the AFA’s event is a “net positive for the country,” will do “overwhelmingly good” and Perry is wise to support it.

Think again.