FFRF vs. Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer rally (2011)

FFRF filed a federal lawsuit on July 13, 2011 in the Southern District Court of Texas in Houston seeking to block Texas Gov. Rick Perry from continued association with the evangelical Christian prayer rally he initiated at Reliant Stadium in Houston to take place on Aug. 6, 2011. On behalf of its 700 Texas members, FFRF, as well as five of its Houston members asked  the federal court to declare unconstitutional Perry’s initiation, organization, promotion and participation in the Aug. 6 prayer event. Perry had issued a proclamation to promote the prayer rally calling Aug. 6 a “Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation’s Challenges.” The rally itself was initiated by Perry. The American Family Association took on the details for the event, called “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis.” The website for The Response, linked from the governor’s official website, http://www.governor.state.tx.us, conveys Gov. Perry’s hope that the prayer rally will provide divine guidance to the nation, and Perry’s videotaped invitation to join him on Aug. 6 to turn to Jesus and ask for God’s forgiveness. The homepage bears Perry’s open invitation as governor to “fellow Americans” to join him and other “praying people” in “asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”

On July 22, FFRF exposed the use of Gov. Perry on robocalls promoting the rally: “This is Governor Rick Perry and I’m inviting you to join your fellow Americans in a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our nation. As an elected leader, I am all too aware of government’s limitations when it comes to fixin’ things that are spiritual in nature. That’s where prayer comes in, and we need it more than ever. With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God’s help. That’s why I’m calling on Americans to pray and fast like Jesus did, and as God called the Israelite to do in the Book of Joel. I sincerely hope you will join me in Houston on August the sixth and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, his wisdom and provision for our state and nation. To learn more, visit TheResponseUSA.com, then makes plans to be part of something even bigger than Texas.” On July 25, FFRF filed a motion seeking to enjoin Perry was continuing to promote the prayer rally. FFRF asked that Perry be barred from participating “in his official capacity as governor as a speaker at the event,” and to rescind his proclamation calling Aug. 6 a “day of prayer and fasting for our nation’s responses.” U.S. District Judge Gray Miller dismissed the lawsuit on July 28, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing. “Nobody would have trouble seeing the injury if a governor aligned himself with a radical Muslim group and used his office to call all citizens to a daylong prayer to Allah rally,” noted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF held a “dinner of nonprayer and nonfasting” Aug. 5 for Houston-area members to honor the local co-plaintiffs in the case. After being denied use of any billboards near the stadium to protest the entanglement, FFRF commissioned an airplane to fly a banner: “Gov: Keep state/church separate. FFRF.ORG,” over the stadium event and leased a mobile billboard with a caricature of the prayerful governor next to this message: “Beware Prayer by Pious Politicians: Get off your knees and get to work.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation