Jul 29, 2011

Contact: Sandhya Bathija, Americans United (202) 466-3234 or (330) 327-3721; bathija@au.orgKirsten Bokenkamp, ACLU of Texas (713) 942-8146 x 109 or (832) 691-7013; kbokenkamp@aclutx.org

In a celebration of diversity, inclusion and unity, the ACLU of Texas and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are sponsoring an evening call to action for the public good and a reaffirmation of the vital importance of the separation of religion and government.

On Friday, Aug. 5 – the day before Gov. Rick Perry’s “Christians-only” prayer rally – the two civil liberties groups and their allies will host a “Family, Faith and Freedom” event.

Featured speakers are the Rev. William Lawson, founding pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, and the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. Additional speakers representing a wide range of religious and non-religious groups from the Houston community will also take part.

The “Family, Faith and Freedom” celebration will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at Mount Ararat Baptist Church (5801 W. Montgomery Rd., Houston, TX) on the evening before “The Response,” a fundamentalist Christian-themed event initiated by Gov. Perry and scheduled for Reliant Stadium.

“Gov. Perry’s decision to sponsor a ‘Christians-only’ Prayer rally is bad enough. That he turned to an array of intolerant religious extremists to put it on for him is even worse,” said AU’s Lynn. “This event unites us in our conviction that government should have no favorite theology and that it must always strive to ensure that all citizens – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and others – are full and equal partners in the public square.”

Observed Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, “Americans of many faiths, and of no faiths, love their country and want to see it prosper. Government promotion of an exclusive Christian event implies that certain types of people care more about the well-being of our country than others, and also implies that Christianity is the only way to approach the challenges that our society faces. We don’t see it that way, and thought somebody ought to host an event that welcomes all faiths and traditions.”

(The ACLU of Texas has requested that Gov. Perry and other public officials disclose the amount of taxpayer dollars and other state or local government resources used to promote “The Response.”)

Important Note to News Media:

On the morning of the “Family, Faith and Freedom” event, Americans United and the ACLU of Texas will hold a press conference to discuss concerns about the Perry rally. The press conference takes place on Friday, Aug. 5 at 11 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza – Reliant Stadium (8686 Kirby Drive). Speakers at the press conference will include: Terri Burke of the ACLU of Texas; Barry Lynn of Americans United; Professor William Martin of Rice University; Mustafaa Carroll of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Houston and others.