Houston, We Have A Problem: Texas Governor Sponsors Stadium Prayer Rally

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is headed to the football stadium, but he’s already out of bounds.

Perry, a well-known Religious Right panderer, has proclaimed Aug. 6 to be an official day of prayer and fasting and is urging Christians to ask God for the “[h]ealing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life.”

What’s more, in conjunction with the proclamation, Perry has “initiated” a worship service for thousands of people at Reliant Stadium in Houston, also on Aug. 6. The prayer rally, organized by the American Family Association, is dubbed “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis.” Perry has invited governors from every state to join him in promoting the observance, which he bills as a “non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer meeting.”

In a statement, Perry said, “Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel.”

Talk about an excessive entanglement of government and religion!

I know that presidents, governors and other officials have a bad habit of issuing proclamations for whatever religious constituency they’re catering to that day. And, frankly, it’s never OK for government officials to use their official positions to meddle in religion.

But Perry’s move is over the top. He has “initiated” a sectarian event where only Americans of a certain faith are welcome and he has called for other state leaders to do the same. To make matters worse, he has hooked up with a deplorable right-wing group to get the job done.

Whoever is advising Perry better get with the Constitution.

The Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) is perhaps most infamous for its “War on Christmas” antics. Every year, AFA staffers throw a fit because retailers choose to use “happy holidays” in their ads instead of “Merry Christmas.” In the past, the AFA has called for a boycott of these brands that “purposely eliminate Christmas” from their advertising.” (This year, they also complained about an Easter Egg Hunt that a town in Ohio chose to call a “Spring Egg Hunt.”)

But that silly annual stunt is only the tip of an insidious iceberg. As we have reported before, AFA blogger and radio ranter Bryan Fischer has asserted that Hitler came up with the concept of church-state separation, that native Americans deserved to lose control of North America because of their ‘superstition, savagery and sexual immorality’ and that gay sex is a form of ‘domestic terrorism.’ He suggested that a whale that killed its trainer should be stoned to death, in keeping with biblical law.

And, now, Gov. Perry has assigned this group to organize his prayer event? It just goes to show Perry will do anything to please his Religious Right fans. (Just last week, he gave Americans United grief by siding with a Texas public school that insisted on violating the law by holding official prayers at graduation.)

In addition to the AFA, other controversial Religious Right leaders and groups involved with "The Response" include Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, the initiator of California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8; Randy and Kelsey Bohlender, who also serve on the leadership team of Evangelical Pastor Lou Engle's "TheCall"; and Luis and Jill Cataldo of the International House of Prayer.

We can’t count on Perry to see the error in his ways, but we hope that the country’s 49 other governors have a better understanding of our Constitution and, quite frankly, a little more sense.