Atheist Group Sues Rick Perry for Participating in Prayer Rally

If the lineup for “The Response,” the evangelical prayer rally which Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been enthusiastically touting, is enough to make you wonder what happened to separation of church and state, rest assured, you are not alone.  A national organization dedicated to ensuring that religion is kept out of politics is suing Perry for his participation in the “Day of Prayer and Fasting,” saying that his connection to the event is unconstitutional.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) calls itself the country’s largest agnostic/atheist membership group.  Its lawsuit claims that Perry’s actions violate the First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause,” which declares that the government may favor no one religion over another.  It also asserts that the event makes nonbelievers into “political outsiders.”

The group is understandably disturbed by the people and organizations sponsoring the Perry event, who include the homophobic American Family Association, and a host of radical right-wing preachers.  The AFA is perhaps best known for the thoughts of its director of issues analysis, Bryan Fischer, who opined last year in a piece about the repeal of DADT:

“Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it’s time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.”

The roster also includes right-wing radicals like San Antonio pastor John Hagee, who has repeatedly declared that the Catholic Church is the “whore of Babylon,” and Cindy Jacobs, a preacher who likes to link natural disasters to God’s wrath at America for accepting homosexuality.

The event’s organizers have been unabashed in expressing their hopes that people will find Christianity by attending the prayer summit.  Certainly, the assumption behind the event is that the United States is a Christian nation, and that our problems can be solved by praying to a Christian God.  However, even other Christians seem skeptical of the endeavor.

“I regret that Gov. Perry has too often used religion to divide us rather than to bring us together,” said Larry Bethune, an Austin-based Baptist minister.

It’s undeniable that Perry has been advocating for the event, from the video posted on its website’s homepage to the invitation that he sent out to the 49 other governors, asking them to join him at the rally in Houston on August 6.  In the lawsuit, the FFRF alleges that Perry’s actions give “official recognition” to a “devotional event, endorse religion, have no secular rationale, and seek to encourage citizens to pray and non-Christians to convert to Christianity.”

Perry seems undeterred, both by the criticism and the lawsuit.  A spokesperson for his office said that he is still planning to attend.  ”He believes it will serve as an important opportunity for Americans to gather together and pray to God,” said Catherine Frazier, Perry’s deputy press secretary. “The pending litigation does not affect plans for the prayer event to move forward as planned.”  For a man who openly admitted that he sees the governor’s office as a “pulpit,” this isn’t a surprise, but it should be yet another wake-up call.

The fact that a U.S. governor was so actively promoting a single religion’s event was disturbing from the beginning, but it has gotten more and more out of hand as extremist pastors signed on to sponsor and speak.  It’s one thing for a legislator to be open about his or her faith, but quite another to openly back a radical evangelical prayer event as the answer to America’s political crises.  It’s offensive to non-believers, but also to people of different faiths, other Christians, and all the people who are affected by the hatred that emerges from many of these pastors’ mouths.  What will it take for Perry to realize that backing such an event is unacceptable?  And are we really still talking about this man as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination?

Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.


Mary T.
Mary T.3 years ago

some of the most religious people have no faith

Bill Reese
Bill Reese4 years ago

For people that do not believe in God, sure are intent on making those that do believe, give up their belief. Now, that is strange as if one does not believe in someone or thing why would you Care or is that Care2 idealology?

Jean P.
Jean Potts4 years ago

Pam-- don't get your abortions on my dime or your contraceptions on my dime and pass some mandate to do it....EiTHER

Jean P.
Jean Potts4 years ago

Carol - Fascism has come to America in the form of Obama and his executive decisions that he makes without the governing body of the U.S. Congress and Senate knowledge -- think back room deals and behind closed doors decisions in the middle of the night -- and buried 'surprises' in 2,500 pages of Obamacare Don't look for fascism any further.. The Trojan Horse is in the gates.

Jean P.
Jean Potts4 years ago

Care2 doesn't scare me... Their bias is so blatant that I get a charge out of contradicting their frantic attempt to 'liberalize the world'.. Have you EVER seen a petition that supported anything but their agenda-- and making it seem like the sky is falling? Rick Perry can go anywhere he wants and pray with anyone he wants and I love the fact that the atheist care-- because they hear of him praying.. Who knows.. maybe the 'seed' the Bible talks about is 'planted' in that atheist heart.. Remember Madelyn Murray O'Hair's own son?---- yep a born again Christian.

Glenn Byrnes
Glenn Byrnes4 years ago

He has every right to go there. He is just one man, not the government.

Songbird No Messages Plea
.5 years ago

The more I read here the more Care 2 scares me. To speak about God and Jesus in such a manner is unbelieveable. You don't have to believe but you will one day soon, I won't laugh for its not funny for this really makes me sad to think people really are this heart harden. So if any of you are on my friends list and don't like what I say or believe then please do remove your self, For I sure don't want some one who says that I would kill Jesus again is really off or out there. I'm really thinking about leaving for real now, Obama is bad enough but this group here wow does not even touch it.

Jerry t.
Jerold t.5 years ago

Dick Perry: Is that an obscene fencing maneuver?

Carol B.
Carol B.5 years ago

Sinclair Lewis said it best when he said, "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross". The religious right wing is incredibly fascist and is making frightening inroads on taking over our government--the fact that Perry and Bachmann are running for President is very sobering. God help us if one of them should win because these religious nuts are like the Taliban in that they will stop at nothing to try to coerce everyone else to abide by their extremist beliefs. If you doubt this, need I remind you that it is Christian radicals that bomb family planning clinics and kill doctors who perform abortions.

pam w.
pam w.5 years ago

Yes...Linda, if you NEED to pray, by all means....go for it. Just don't do it on my dime, so to speak and do NOT encourage our elected leaders to mandate it for you.