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‘Faith, Family & Freedom’ planned as alternative to Perry’s ‘Response’
Billed as an “alternative” to Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer and fast event “The Response,” the ACLU of Texas and Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced today they will be hosting a gathering of their own the evening before Perry’s, to promote the diversity they say is missing from the Christian-based prayer event.
“Gov. Perry’s decision to sponsor a ‘Christians-only’ prayer rally is bad enough. That he turned to an array of intolerant religious extremists to put it on for him is even worse,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State director Barry Lynn said in a statement. “This event unites us in our conviction that government should have no favorite theology and that it must always strive to ensure that all citizens — Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and others — are full and equal partners in the public square.”
Called “Faith, Family and Freedom,” the Aug. 5 event is scheduled to feature religious and non-religious leaders from the Houston community and is intended to celebrate “diversity, inclusion, and unity” — qualities the civil liberties and watchdog groups say are lacking from the prayer rally.
“Government promotion of an exclusive Christian event implies that our government views certain types of people as more caring about the well-being of our country than others, and also implies that our government views Christianity as the only way to approach the challenges that our society faces,” said Terri Burke ACLU of Texas’ executive director. “We don’t see it that way, and thought somebody ought to host an event that welcomes all faiths and traditions.”
The ACLU recently filed an open records request to ensure no taxpayer funds have gone toward the Perry-sponsored event, The Independent reported. That information is expected to be released by Aug. 3.
A growing coalition of LGBT-rights and faith-based groups have also planned a counter protest just north of Reliant Stadium, the site of the all-day prayer event, on the day of the rally.
Groups including GetEQUAL, a Texas-wide, direct-action LGBT civil rights organization, the Texas chapter of The Secular Coalition of America, the American Atheists and the Houston Clergy Council plan to conduct a peaceful demonstration opposing the event’s possible church/state separation violations, religious exclusivity and its affiliation with the American Family Association, a designated anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and one of a handful of out-of-state groups that bankrolled Bob Vander Plaats’ successful effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010. More than 800 people have signed up to attend on the event’s Facebook page, up from 300 in mid-June.
Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed has countered accusations of religious exclusivity, saying the event is Christian-based, but that the governor has invited, “all faiths to pray however they see fit.”