Critics Pray Texas Governor Changes Mind About Day of Prayer

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June 8, 2011; Source: Houston Chronicle | Texas Gov. Rick Perry's call for a day of prayer and fasting is angering many because of what critics say is its pro-Christian focus and the anti-gay nonprofit advocacy group that is sponsoring the event.

Earlier this week, Perry proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 6, as a Day of Prayer and Fasting "to seek God's guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation." He also invited governors across the country take part in what he's calling The Response, and similarly urged them to issue proclamations "encouraging their constituents to pray that day for unity and righteousness for our states, nation and mankind."

The Houston Chronicle reports the governor is taking flak from critics "protesting the exclusively Christian focus of the event." Perry's partnership with the American Family Association (AFA), which critics say "advocates against gay rights" also is upsetting to many.

The nonprofit AFA operates a network of 192 radio stations with 2 million followers, and according to the Chronicle "has been labeled a 'hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center for what the SPLC calls the dissemination of 'known falsehoods' about homosexuality. '" Protesters have set up a Facebook page in opposition to the event, and others are urging governors nationwide to boycott The Response.

So far, Perry is sticking to his guns. A website created to promote the event carries a statement from him that reads, "Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy."

A spokeswoman also defended the partnership with the AFA. "The American Family Association is an organization devoted to faith and strong families," said Catherine Frazier. "We are pleased to have them as a sponsor for the event."

Comments like that, and the event overall, aren't sitting well with gay rights groups. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights organization, said Perry's "decision to work with such blatantly anti-LGBT groups on an event billed as a day of prayer is disturbing."—Bruce Trachtenberg