[CORRECTED: The initial press release had the wrong date for the hearing. It is July 28, not August 28]
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s robocalls to constituents inviting them to his Christian evangelical prayer rally Aug. 6 are “smoking gun” evidence of Perry’s illegal and inappropriate entanglement in a religious event.
FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, filed a federal lawsuit July 13 to block Perry from continuing to call, organize, promote and participate in the Aug. 6 prayer rally at Reliant Stadium. A proposed order to restrain Perry’s continuing involvement in the prayer rally will be filed soon. A hearing on the legal complaint is set for Thursday, July. 28 in the courtroom of Gray H. Miller.
The robocall is an audio version of Perry’s videotaped invitation to attend the rally and observe a “Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation’s Challenges” which greets all visitors to “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a National in Crisis”:
“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.”
“We began receiving complaints from members of the Houston public starting Wednesday night,” reports Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. One of the complainants included a woman, 86, who e-mailed FFRF today:
“Yesterday I got a lengthy recording by Perry inviting me to his prayer event, mixing politics and religion! I resent this intrusion. I am Jewish, and from all publicity it appears to be a Christian gathering. If they called me, I assume the calls are going through the whole phone book!“
“At least one of our local plaintiffs has heard Gov. Perry’s robocall — which adds to his injury," says Galyor. "Here, we have the governor of Texas, identified in his capacity as governor of Texas, reaching into citizens’ private homes and beseeching them to attend an exclusively Christian rally convened explicitly to ‘ask God’s forgiveness,’ to say ‘There is hope for America. It lies in Heaven, and we will find it on our knees,’ and “to come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles.”
“This fundamentalist intrusion is an egregious abuse of government authority,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.
FFRF will be holding a tongue-in-cheek private “dinner of non-prayer and non-fasting” for Houston-area FFRF members, to honor the local co-plaintiffs in the case, the evening before the evangelical-ballyhooed event mixing government and religion.
Barker and Gaylor will be leading a FFRF contingent meeting at Reliant Stadium on Aug. 6 at 8 a.m. FFRF plans to unveil on that date some other secular responses to the governor’s unprecedented role in calling, initiating and publicizing a religious prayer event gathering to pray for the nation.