Perry’s proclamation draws national attention, incites criticism from non-Christians

Diego Cruz

Gov. Rick Perry is attracting national attention after organizing “The Response: A Day of Prayer and Fasting” to deal with a nation “in crisis.”

The daylong “non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer meeting” scheduled for Aug. 6 at Reliant Stadium in Houston is modeled after a ritual in the biblical Book of Joel, according to a press release. The American Family Association will cover the costs of the event, a move that has raised alarm from the Secular Coalition of America.

Sean Faircloth, executive director of the Secular Coalition of America, said the civil rights firm Southern Poverty Law Center designated the American Family Association as a hate group in 2010.

“It is sad to see a governor pandering to the most extreme and hateful fundamentalist groups,” Faircloth said.
Faircloth said the association previously attempted to bar openly-gay former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., from the Republican National Convention in 2000 and opposed the use of a Quran to swear in Muslim Massachusetts Congressman Keith Ellison in 2006.

He said elected officials such as Perry are violating the separation of church and state, one of the “basic founding principles” of the nation, instead of focusing on public policy.

But Perry, in a proclamation Monday that announced the event, said “The Response” is necessary for the good of the country.

“Given the trials that have beset our country and world, it seems imperative that the people of our nation should once again join together for a solemn day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation,” Perry said.

The U.S. faces threats from natural disasters, economic downturns, terrorism, wars and a decline of family and culture, he said.

“Even those who have been granted power by the people must turn to God in humility for wisdom, mercy and direction,” Perry said.

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Perry, said Perry personally requested the AFA’s support.

“This is an organization that promotes safe and strong families,” Frazier said. “[Perry] is pleased to have their support in making this event possible.”

Biology senior Laura Garcia said Perry is doing what he believes in, but she doesn’t like that it only included Christians.
“I would be more supportive if it were more open to other faiths,” Garcia said.

English freshman Melissa Secor said she didn’t mind the governor’s choice of host because every politician has his or her interest groups, and it doesn’t necessarily mean Perry is displaying favoritism.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Secor said. “I don’t feel like it necessarily violates people’s constitutional rights.”

Opposition remains, however. The organization the American Atheists is planning protests in Houston, and the Secular Coalition of America is asking citizens to urge their governors to reject the event.


Originally printed on 6/9/2011 as Perry's proclamation asks for day of prayer, receives disapproval