WASHINGTON, D.C., August 8, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Intended as a simple gathering to invoke God’s help for America, a high-profile Houston prayer rally hosted by Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked a beehive of anti-Christian sentiment as media commentators slammed the event as bigoted, unconstitutional, and even akin to Nazi brainwashing tactics.
The Response, a non-denominational Christian event initiated by Gov. Perry and joined by cosponsors including the American Family Association (AFA), drew around 30,000 participants to Houston Saturday. There, the crowd followed a Biblical injunction to “gather together, repent of their sins, and pray to God to intervene on their behalf.”
“A historic crisis facing our nation and threatening our future demands a historic response from the church. We must, as a people, return to the faith and hope of our fathers,” states The Response’s web site.
Governor Perry, who is expected to announce his presidential bid on Saturday, bucked political correctness at the event in favor of wearing openly his Christian beliefs.
“Father, our heart breaks for America,” said Perry, as reported by the Associated Press. “We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government and, as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us.”
The governor called on the crowd to pray for the nation and for President Obama, and was otherwise silent on political issues.
In the aftermath, critics lambasted the pro-life and pro-family event as “bigoted,” primarily due to the American Family Association’s (AFA) involvement, and too exclusive of other faiths because it called for prayer to Jesus.
At a counter-rally, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, called the prayer event “a narrow, theocratic view ... that says that people are not welcomed — that says that people are bad because of who they are.” A letter signed by several left-leaning local clergy also said the event was not “inclusive” enough and condemned the sponsorship of the AFA, “an organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
One ABC report suggested that “even some mainstream Christians are concerned” over the event, while quoting only prominent left-wing figures, as pointed out by NewsBusters.
Meanwhile, some commentators suggested that the event was problematic simply for being Christian.
In a commentary published by the Los Angeles Times, Lawrence M. Krauss wrote that, by associating Perry with Christianity, the “misguided day of prayer” should have done him more harm than good.
“Claiming affiliation with Christian values often guarantees immunity from serious public or media backlash, but it shouldn’t,” wrote Krauss.
“Not when that claim, once you get to the details, means that about 21 percent of the adult U.S. population ... are excluded from a quasi-governmental event that will, among other things, proclaim their eternal damnation.”
Writing for the Washington Post’s faith blog, Charles Haynes decided that the call to prayer was not unconstitutional, but still “raises serious questions about the governor’s commitment to represent all Texans.” “Perry’s ‘call to prayer’ may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right,” he concluded.
Others had harder words for the Texas governor: Clay Farris Naff of the Huffington Post argued that Perry’s event was both “violating the U.S. Constitution” and a plot to use the “dark side to prayer” to foment political upheaval in the mold of Nazism.
“The purpose of Rick Perry’s prayer rally is not to cure the nation’s ills, it is to build an American Volksgemeinschaft—a community of believers in a reactionary myth of America’s history and the Christian religion,” wrote Naff.
“The promoters of this myth scorn constitutional law, separation of church and state, science, minority rights, and most of all the principle of tolerance.”
But one conservative leader noted that invocations by government leaders are nothing new - 43 of 44 presidents have announced national days of prayer - and that it’s the critics of the event, not its organizers, whose views fall outside the American mainstream.
“The reality is, those who are speaking against this on the left are people who generally think that there should be no role of religious faith in any sort of public activity,” said Dan Klukowski of the Family Research Countil in an appearance on Fox News August 5.