Joe Holley, Houston Chronicle
Three days before The Response, the Reliant Stadium prayer event Gov. Rick Perry initiated two months ago, the response has been spirited among those objecting to the governor’s participation.
On Tuesday, more than 50 Houston-area religious and community leaders disseminated a signed statement drafted by the Anti-Defamation League expressing “deep concern” about a prayer rally “not open to all faiths,” while the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and related organizations announced a Friday rally at Tranquility Park to protest the event. The groups that represent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals accused the American Family Association and other sponsors of the prayer event of hatred toward the GLBT community.
The ADL statement followed a June letter from the Houston Clergy Council that criticized the governor for excluding non-Christians, partnering with an anti-gay group and blurring boundaries between church and state.
“Governor Perry has a constitutional duty to treat all Texans equally, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity,” the ADL statement reads. “His official involvement with The Response, at minimum, violates the spirit of that duty.”
Signatories include Rabbi Samuel E. Karff, rabbi emeritus of congregation Beth Israel; Shaikh Omar Inshanally, head clergy of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston; the Rev. Lisa Hunt, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church; and Rev. William A. Lawson, pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.
Lawson to speak
“We strongly believe this statement, signed by so many of our most respected religious and community leaders, reflects the feelings of many Texans who are concerned that Governor Perry is overstepping his bounds in supporting an exclusionary sectarian religious event,” Martin B. Cominsky, ADL southwest regional director, said in a news release.
Lawson also will be the keynote speaker at a “family, faith and freedom” event on Friday at the Mount Ararat Baptist Church. The event is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Brownback opts out?
Organizers of the Perry prayer event have not announced whether the governor will give a speech or how he will participate during the seven-hour program. Last week, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit brought by atheists and agnostics aimed at preventing Perry from participating in his official capacity as governor.
Perry, who joked last week that he may be an usher at the event, initially invited all the nation’s governors, but the only one who has said he would attend, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, may be having second thoughts, the Lawrence Journal World reported. Brownback announced in June that he had accepted Perry’s invitation, but since then, according to the Lawrence newspaper, the Kansas governor’s office would not confirm his plans, saying only that Brownback would be on vacation this weekend.
Co-chairs of event
Response spokesman Eric Bearse said Tuesday that two nationally known religious figures serving as co-chairs of the event, Dr. James Dobson and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, will help lead the gathering in prayer and worship. Dobson hosts the daily radio program, “Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson,” while Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Bearse said “several thousand people” have registered, indicating they will attend, and more than a thousand churches and individuals have signed up to simulcast the event in their local communities.
Reliant Park officials have said they planned a “small arena configuration” the would accommodate about 10,000 people.