Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 7 September 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Bonds of blasphemy at Perry prayer rally

The following is an excerpt from Jana Dubke’s account of her participation as a Texas FFRF member and Golden Triangle Freethinker in FFRF’s Aug. 6 protest in Houston of Gov. Rick Perry’s stadium prayer rally. She got up at 5 a.m. and got lost on the way to her new friend Melissa’s house, where they hit the road for the two-hour drive to Houston. Thank you, Jana, for your stellar support!

We had our signs and our water and hats and sunscreen and found the FFRF group first, standing on the sidewalk in the full shade of the stadium. I spent a lot of time holding one end of the banner that said, “Beware Prayer by Pious Politicians” and “Get off your knees and get to work.”

At times a truck would pass by that advertised the same message in a bigger, bolder way. We managed to run out there and pose in front of it a couple of times before the police ordered the drivers not to block traffic. There was also the airplane flying by all day streaming “GOV: KEEP STATE CHURCH SEPARATE. FFRF.ORG.” Yay!

I got to chat with lots of people, admired lots of signs, and had several people express approval for my T-shirt (which was designed by comedian and FFRF member Richard Halasz). It’s always fun to spread the blasphemy to those who appreciate it. I was so happy to be there I couldn’t keep the smile off my face and didn’t even mind the heat too much.

After some time, though, Melissa and I decided to check out the stadium and bask in some air conditioning. We’d heard only about 8,000 had registered, but the number was much greater than that. I hear now that the total was more like 30,000 and that seems more accurate.

Sometimes I’m so embarrassed to be a Texan.

In the belly of the beast

The blast of cool air that hit us when we entered the stadium was chilling in more ways than one. There were people to greet us and bless us, and I didn’t even like the feel of the handshakes. We meandered around, stopping to watch the spectacle, trading looks of abhorrence at the numbers of people swaying in the stands, arms outstretched, paying homage to the “slave master” as Dan Barker put it. Creepy!

After 15 or 20 minutes, we decided the oppressive heat outside was better than feeling oppressed by the atmosphere of delusion.

We rejoined the ranks on the sidewalk and I gratefully took up one end of the FFRF banner again. Ah, much better to be sweating but in the company of rational people than cool and exposed to the lunacy.

An Associated Press reporter came by, asking me if I could answer some questions. I introduced her to Annie Laurie, who did an excellent job explaining the reasons we were there and how the governor was abusing his position by promoting the exclusionary event. Later, Dan relieved Annie Laurie of banner-holding duty and also did an excellent job when an ABC reporter came calling for an interview. I was so honored to be in the company of the FFRF co-presidents.

I watched Dan participate in a couple more interviews while hogging my spot at the banner’s end. Dan demonstrated some of his Prometheus Society ingenuity by using a rainbow flag streamer to attach the “pious politician” banner and the “FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION” banner together so he could be free to turn around and speak into the cameras. That left me and Tommy, a new friend, to hold up the banners between the two of us for a while. Banner-bonding!

Back to the beast

Then, we decided to trudge back inside for more exposure to the hysteria and the A/C. We paid an exorbitant price for cold drinks and sat and watched.

What timing! John Hagee was about to speak. Such a treat! He told us we were gathered together from the length and breadth of America and our only hope was a nation under God who is the creator of heaven and earth (I suspect he hasn’t read Stephen Hawking) and who held the seven seas in the palms of his hand (perhaps his explanation for how the tides never miscommunicate?), who raised the mountains (he’s obviously never heard of plate tectonics), is the everlasting of the everlasting (nor the “Big Freeze”), the God of Israel and the Great and Majestic Something or Other.

We were next encouraged to huddle in groups of three to pray and make agreements, because everyone knows when at least three people pray and agree on something to ask god, god will do it. Unless, of course, it’s not his will.

Our little group of three didn’t pray, but we did watch all the huddling and swaying and hands reaching skyward. It gave me the same uncomfortable feeling I get watching a game show: embarrassment at the behavior of people getting so worked up over winning money or prizes. And since they were all behaving like idiots, they didn’t realize they were behaving like idiots.

After a little more time outside on the sidewalk, we wilted in the heat and went to Joe’s Crab Shack (shellfish!) and then headed home.

We made it safe and sound, full of ourselves for making the trip and letting our voices be heard. We might not have made a huge impact on the outcome, but we felt like we did our part.

We were there.

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