from Fort Worth Star Telegram
The organization, which is made up of atheists and agnostics, argues that Gov. Rick Perry is violating the constitutional ban on the government establishing a religion.
Perry has invited the Obama administration, the nation’s governors and Texas lawmakers to attend the prayer meeting at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The event is being sponsored by evangelical Christian groups and is explicitly a Christian event.
The foundation said Perry should not have organized the event as governor.
The suit was filed Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Houston. A spokesman for the event, called The Response, said he needed to consult an attorney before commenting. The governor’s office had no immediate comment.
But Perry had plenty to say in a conference call on Wednesday, telling pastors nationwide that the prayer rally he’s promoting will not be a political event.
“I know there are people, critics, that say this is just some political event,” Perry said. “Well it’s not that. This event is not about supporting some organization. … It’s going to be very simple. … It’s just a time to call out to God and that’s it and lift Jesus’ name up on high.”
Event organizers on the call stressed that the event is designed to be entirely religious and described Perry as having insisted that the program be devoted to Jesus. They said attendees will be asked not to wear clothing with political messages or bring political signs to the event.
“This is not an issue of who’s going to be our president. … It absolutely has nothing to do with that at all. It’s about making Jesus king,” said Jim Garlow, a California pastor who led Euless’ Metroplex Chapel until 1996.
Organizers also made clear that they hope the event’s impact will reach far beyond Texas.
Louis Cataldo, one of the program coordinators, said the proceedings will be simulcast on “the Internet and satellite television.” Groups are expected to watch the event at hundreds of remote locations, he said.
“We think the stadium will capture the imagination of the nation,” Cataldo said.
Cataldo said one of the event’s goals is to embolden government officials across the country to make similar calls for prayer in their communities.
Garlow said Perry’s involvement in the event is key to its historic nature.
“We have not seen historically a governor call other governors to a national prayer before that I’m aware of,” Garlow said. “Even if only one or two other governors respond, at least this governor had the courage to ask other governors to respond. That’s critical.”
Perry predicted that the event will be “a historical and very important day in America’s history and America’s future.” He conceded that some assume there are “other motivations” behind the event. Perry is widely expected to announce whether he’s running for president soon after the event.
“I can’t control that,” Perry said. “We can’t control that. We’re just going to pray. We’re just going to get on our knees and pray right there in Reliant Stadium.”
Staff writer Aman Batheja contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.