Is Texas Governor the George Wallace Wannabe of the Illegal-Prayer-in-School Movement?

"Zero Tolerance" Urged for Theocratic Politicians

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting a "cabal of self-serving politicians" for using the public schools for "religious self-aggrandizement," following a story in the (Austin) American-Statesman reporting that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other public officials hosted a Christian prayer at a mandatory school assembly last week.

The Palestine Middle School assembly featuring Gov. Perry on Thursday, October 18, included an invocation led by Rev. Roy Duncan, who prayed "in Jesus' name." The superintendent's office told Freethought Today, the Foundation's newspaper, that the program was set by the Governor's office via State Sen. Todd Staples, and that the Governor's office asked Supt. Jerry Mayo to handpick the clergyman. The Statesman credited Staples with organizing the event.

"What kind of public official would capitalize on a national tragedy to opportunistically trample on the precious principle of the separation of church and state?" the Foundation asked Gov. Perry in a letter protesting his role in the First Amendment violation. "Do you aspire to become the George Wallace of the illegal-prayer-in-school movement?"

Perry told the Statesman he thinks the school prayer issue should be decided by "majority rule" and that he would use school prayer as a campaign issue. Apparently the governor has never read the Bill of Rights, the Foundation noted. "That would be like asking the people of Texas to decide by referendum what church Texans must attend and support. Majority does not rule over matters of personal conscience," Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote Perry on behalf of the Foundation's Texas membership. Perry said people who object to school prayer should be "tolerant."

"To ignorantly say 'we all pray to the same God' is the opposite of 'tolerance.' The public needs to demonstrate 'zero tolerance' for politicians who hold personal liberties in such contempt," Gaylor wrote the governor. "Imagine if an imam had been invited to pray in the name of Allah, and a gymnasium full of children had prostrated themselves on the floor!" she added.

In response to Sen. Staples' assertion "No one has shown me anything that says it is not [legal]," the Foundation sent him documentation of more than half a century of Supreme Court precedents declaring religious worship in public schools out of bounds, concluding with last year's Santa Fe v. Doe decision out of Texas, against football prayers in public schools. "This decision cannot have escaped your notice," the Foundation pointed out.

Staples also asserted the prayer was "voluntary."

"Certainly, no gun was held to the children's heads forcing them to bow. But none was needed. The governor of their state, their state senator, their principal and their superintendent used the force of law to inflict prayer on children at a mandatory assembly."

The Foundation suggested that Supt. Jerry Mayo resign for failing to enforce the law of the land and for letting a premeditated violation of the First Amendment occur. "The buck stops with you," the Foundation wrote Mayo.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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