The Austin Chronicle

Perry's Day of Fasting for Ballots

By Richard Whittaker, June 7, 2011, 8:00am, Newsdesk

With both Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum both circling the GOP presidential nominations, it seemed Monday would be a bad day for Gov. Rick Perry to burnish his wingnut fundamentalist credentials. That is, until he called for a day of prayer and fasting in Texas.

In what seems to be yet another clear violation of the separation of church and state, Perry has declared Aug. 6 "a Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God's guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation." Deputy Press Secretary Lucy Nashed said that "on several occasions before the governor has called Texans to prayer," including the recent wholly unsuccessful day of prayer for rain. Nashed said that this is "reaching out to all people of faith and asking them to do whatever they feel appropriate."

Perry has invited all his fellow governors to attend his day of religiosity, which he has dubbed the Rapture the Response. Where this gets creepier-than-normal is that this all ties in with his new affiliated organization, also dubbed The Response. This group, which describes Perry as its "initiator", has booked out Reliant Stadium in Houston on Aug. 6 for a "a call to prayer for a nation in crisis."

The leadership of The Response is an odd-ball bunch. Aside for Perry, there are a coterie of evangelicals from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, while the American Family Association is described as the hosting entity. Perry's people pointed out that this is really the AFA's deal, although it was "the governor's idea to do this."

Quick note: The American Family Association is boycotting Home Depot because it did not "remain neutral in the culture war" by sponsoring Gay Pride events. Similarly, the International House of Prayer is currently being sued by International House of Pancakes for copyright violation.

What was the thinking? Maybe Perry realized that the followers of Harold "The Rapture is coming" Camping had some spare time. Or maybe it's just another finger-in-the-wind for his presidential aspirations. The real clue here seems to be the presence of several names. First is none other than Perry's old speech writer Eric Bearse. Next up is David Lane, whose bio claims that in 2010 he "organized pastor meetings in key battleground states resulting in a significant increase in voter turnout." Rounding out this cabal nicely is Alice Patterson of Justice at the Gate, a group that aims to "mobilize governmental prayer" while recruiting traditionally Democratic African-American voters to the Republican slate.

Of course, not everyone will feel super-welcome: Not with both the American Family Association and Jim 'Satan loves gay marriage' Garlow of the Skyline Wesleyan Church in attendance.

The total lack of non-Christians may raise an eyebrow or two. While Perry (with seemingly no irony) refers to his press release as "a call to prayer," it clearly calls the event a "non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer service." After we finished internally gagging on the "apolitical" bit, we asked about the exclusive nature of the service. Nashed said, "This specific event is a Christian prayer service, but the governor is calling on all people to lift their voices in prayer, however they see fit."

The Texas Democratic Party has simply fired back that "Perry is the last person who should be talking about what’s right for our country."

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