Wisconsin Group Files Suit, Claiming Perry's Prayer Event Has "No Secular Rationale"

Categories: Religion

perry praying2.jpg
Now this is a response: Perhaps you've heard that a Wisconsin-based "state/church watchdog" group opposed to mixin' government and religion today filed for a temporary injunction down in Houston, asking a federal court to put the kibosh on Gov. Rick Perry's star-studded prayer rally scheduled for August 6 at Reliant Stadium. And the lawyers all said: Hallelujah!

Seems the Freedom From Religion Foundation believes that proclamation announcing the "Day of Prayer and Fasting" bearing the seal of The Great State of Texas may have violated the First Amendment clause separating church and state. Another sticking point: a couple of verses from the Books of Joel and John on Perry's announcement, lending the distinct impression that the prayer rally won't be accommodating those wearing yarmulkes or toting prayer rugs.

"Governor Perry's initiation of a Christian prayer rally at Reliant Stadium on August 6, 2011, is intended to and does have the effect of giving official recognition to the endorsement of religion; the event has no secular rationale; the purpose of the prayer rally is to encourage individual citizens to pray; persons who are not already Christian, moreover, will be fair game for conversion," says the complaint, which you can read in its entirety here. "Governor Perry's actions have been deliberately made public and directed at the citizens of Texas."

Can't say you didn't see some kind of litigation coming. From the jump, those opposed to the event have pointed not only to its overtly Christian message but to the event's deep-rooted connection to, among others, the American Family Association, the International House of Prayer and other groups preaching more than The Good Word, let's say.

Then, of course, there's the video:


From the FFRF's press release announcing today's filing:

"We always say, 'Beware prayer by pious politicians,' " says Annie Laurie Gaylor, who co-directs FFRF with husband Dan Barker, a former evangelical minister who is now an atheist. "Nothing fails like prayer. It's the ultimate political cop-out."

"The answers for America's problems won't be found on our knees or in heaven, but by using our brains, our reason and in compassionate action," adds Barker, author of Godless. "Gov. Perry's distasteful use of his civil office to plan and dictate a religious course of action to 'all citizens' is deeply offensive to many citizens, as well as to our secular form of government."

The group says it hopes to have a judge appointed to the case before week's end.


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Simon James
Simon James

Rick Perry wants to deal with his critics by nailing them to a cross on the front lawn of the Texas Capitol.  The legislature approved the measure along party lines.

Hamburgerhelpus
Hamburgerhelpus

Can't we all see this is a political rally for his push to president next year?

Kinda sucks that somehow I will be paying for it whether I want to or not....in some way

Polecat31
Polecat31

Perry praying, to whom? He is the Devil, just look into his eyes, same goes for Mark Cuban. The eyes are windows to the soul ya know!

Dodorotamy
Dodorotamy

His last prayer attempt for rain to end the drought brought us massive hail storms. What will his mega prayer do for the state? We might want to have a contigency plan in case Texas falls into the Gulf of Mexico.

Sammy
Sammy

Matthew 6:5And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner

Perry has the Constitutional right to attend this event, as well as call people to prayer. There can be no disdain for that which we seek for ourselves as well.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

He does not have the right to use his office (that office belongs to the people of Texas -- he is merely a temporary resident) or the benefits of his office, to promote a specific religious viewpoint to the exclusion of others.  That is exactly what he is doing here. 

Mike
Mike

What does use his office mean?  Is he spending TX funds?  I thought he was paying for it out of political funds.  He is not in prison.  He does have time of his own to use as he sees fit.  Contrary to public opinion, TX Governors really don't have too much to do.  Very few people actually work for the Governor, directly or indirectly.  If he is having a prayer meeting, he is not doing something else to cause us problems.  Maybe the Legislature should go to one too, but we spread it around.  Some Catholic, some Wiccan, some Muslim, some Shinto, etc. to cover all bases.  The main thing is just keep those people out of Austin.

Barryguitar
Barryguitar

Its sad and pathetic that I live in a country, supposedly founded on religious tolerance, that has become a place where one rogue group of individuals thinks that its Ok to clog up the courts with a Lawsuit, just to prevent someone else from Praying to their god in the public square. Some of you people on here refuse to accept the reality of the intent of the first amendment." government shall make NO LAW restricting the free exercise there of " .Sorry, all you Atheistic Americans, we get to pray whenever and wherever we feel the need to do so. Yes, even the Governor. 

Darryl
Darryl

That's why I am always dubous of religion because dupes like Perry claim to be such fervent believers.

meh
meh

We "Atheistic Americans" don't wish to eliminate prayer by anyone; but, no you don't get to pray whenever and whereever you want.  Your rights end where mine begin (and vice versa).  To put it another way, you don't get to exercise a right in a way the infringes on the rights of others.

In this case, the governor, by issuing a proclamation, has used his official capacity as chief executive of the state to promote an event that clearly endorses a specific religion.  Those of us who do not share that religion have a RIGHT as citizens to not have the government we live under promote views we do not share.

to sum up, an individual can pray all they want until or unless it infringes on another individual's right not to pray, a government must allow free religious expression, but not endorse religion in a way that disenfranchises those that do not share that religion. 

RTGolden
RTGolden

What utter nonsense.  Special Interests push legislation to 'inflict' their rights on others all the time.  Take, for instance, the smoking ban in our dear city.  How does the city, state, or federal govt, in this great country, get to tell someone who owns their business, owns the building and land that business operates from, whether or not he can allow smoking in the establishment?  And for the fools who pushed the legislation, it was not 'in the public interest', it was in their own interests.  Those people who own a building have a RIGHT to allow or disallow smoking as they see fit.  Those people who don't smoke have the CHOICE to visit establishments that allow smoking or not to.  Non-smokers don't have a RIGHT to tell others whether they can allow smoking.  Instead of allowing others their rights, non-smokers got the gov't to force their will on others.While this analogy might seem unrelated, it is very much relevant. Private property rights are within the Bill of Rights, as are the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.To sum it up, you're treading on a slippery, steep slope whenever you attempt to limit the rights within the Bill.  One could argue that putting this injunction violates the free speech, free expression RIGHTS of those who believe in prayer and wish to attend.  Like others have said, it all hinges on whether or not State funds are used to promote, finance, or host the event.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

" government shall make NO LAW restricting the free exercise there of "

I don't think you understand what that means.  But that's beside the point.  The point is that this event is the exact opposite of "religious tolerance".  It is pointedly and specifically exclusionary to anyone of a non-Christian religion.  It is sponsored and endorsed by the government of one of the states.  Those facts alone make it extremely questionable, if not downright unethical.

I do have to say, though, as a person of a non-religious persuasion, this kind of lawsuit makes me slightly uncomfortable.  It's things like this that make the general population dislike professed atheists.  It just seems kinda...  dickish.

Borborygmus
Borborygmus

A PRAYER FOR RICK PERRY

Let us all bow our heads at the feet of Rick PerryWhose godliness is misconstrued by Liberals as scaryWhen truthfully his seat at the left of the LordHas brought all us Texans economical reward.(Forget any parables, biblically warningOf glittery things, with good hair adorning).

Bow your head down, subject, I mean, citizen,This Christian thing's rolling - do you not ken?Don't give us that excuse of religious difference,It's Texas! We're used to Christian pretense.So for a day shut up and buckle on the bible(Whether we follow its dictates is debatable).

'Cause we are godly, where else would ya'll liveWe have no state income tax requirin' you to giveTha's just Commie shit from the leftys, puh-lease.(Don't watch how he allocates the political greaseOf the Enterprise Fund - hey, what a nameFor a Ponzi scheme funded by taxpayers - lame!)

Just like that "no tax" saying looks pretty goodScratching the surface reveals math misunderstood.A franchise tax awaits small businesses which payHigh costs of sales, plus labor, fiscal doomsday.An  tax rate of one hundred percent or higherOf net income, I guarantee of which you'll tire.

So before you kneel down with Epostle Rick,Rmember, he's a politican, and kind of a prick.Who'd carry a gun in his shorts while out running?Shooting stray wildlife, c'mon whose he kidding.We know what that pistol is really used forTo "man-up" what would seem a political whore.

I love you all.  Hiccup, burp, fart, I feel much better.

Texan
Texan

Maybe they should go back to the land a cheese and leave Texas the F alone.

G_David
G_David

Then again, most Texans - the ones that keep voting for Perry - are too stupid to look out for themselves, so why not a little help from our friends up north?

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Look, let's get something productive out of this nut-fest.  Let's make a commitment to try and raise a dollar for each nut-fest attendee with the proceeds to be split between HIV/AIDS prevention research and the ACLU.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

there are more than two choices:1. I hate religion, it's a disease or2. I want my governor to sponsor prayer.there's a lot of mystery in the universe. I don't understand intellectually the effect prayer has on events. Yet, i pray. I pray for my family. I pray for others, dying of cancer, solders and marines. Do I want my government sponsoring this? no. I also believer firmly in the first amendment and do not approve of this government sponsorship of religion.some of you ridicule my religious belief. It's your right and I support your right to ridicule and reject my belief. But, you could be wrong. Couldn't you?

scottindallas
scottindallas

I don't ask this viciously, I appreciate your comments.  But, what do you pray for?  A friend is sick, you hope they get well, do you pray for life for one riddled with cancer, or who's health has so deteriorated the only real question is how soon?  I pray that the family is handling it well, that all have peace in their hearts and the like, but I honestly don't even know what to pray for.  If something be God's will how dare we deny it, fight it, reject it?  I sometimes try to contemplate this divide from the subjective to the objective.  I think perhaps we should try to see the beauty and power of the whole experience. 

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Not vicious at all Scott. It's a good question. Actually I think all questions are good questions. I pray for healing, but also for mercy. My mom was dying of Stage IV Ovarian cancer in 1997. I prayed for death for her. I said before, I don't understand prayer. I don't presume that G-d does what I ask. I don't think I'm wise enough to know what is best. I pray, because prayer is a conversation.

This morning, for instance I prayed for my sons. I prayed for my current asylum client, seeking refuge here in America. I prayed for Major Mike in the Marines. I prayed for friends, recovering from cancer and one in the middle of the battle. I prayed for little Violet, with CF. And I thanked G-d for his blessings, as I am a very blessed man.

Sometimes, in subtlety and quiet, I think G-d answers my prayers. Other times like the Psalmist, I don't think he hears. But in my deepest sense, I believe He does. And so, I keep praying.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Well YOU'RE WRONG! 

lol, just kidding.  That was a nice answer. It really troubles me all these debates about dogma. If we appeal to the best angels in each other's traditions, we can find plenty of common ground that we should be able to empathize with our neighbors and enemies alike.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

I don't ridicule anyone's sincere religious beliefs. I ridicule Perry because I think his religious bullshit is completely phony and politically opportunistic. Sincerely religious people don't need to parade their faith around in front of everyone. Phonies do, as do the pathologically insecure. But as to the question of "could I be wrong"? Yes, inasmuch as I could be wrong in my belief that cockroaches can't read my thoughts, or that plants don't talk amongst themselves about mathematics when we're not looking. Its possible, but there's absolutely no evidence to believe that its so. I can't bring myself to believe in anything for which there is absolutely no evidence. But life is a weird and often scary thing, so I don't ridicule those who find comfort and peace in religion's message.

Montemalone
Montemalone

You really should meet my philodendron.His theory on warp speed travel is fascinating, and Alcubierre has said as much.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

Given both of your first-hand experience coupled with a surprising the exchange I heard last night amongst the azaleas while a cockroach shot me a knowing glance, I think I may have chosen 2 bad examples to make my point.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Now I know why cockroaches always smirk at me, as they scurry away. "life is a weird and often scary thing." Now, we've found that room for agreement.

Amy S.
Amy S.

I see your distinction between believing in the message vs. believing in the messenger. While not "religious" I often find comfort and peace in various religious messages. At the same time I am extremely wary of those with a message.

Amy S.
Amy S.

Bill Holston, I love you almost as much as my husband. Thank you.

Darryl
Darryl

that's the thing, i could be wrong, but most, if not all of Christians, will never express the same. They are certain their version is the truth, not the hindus, not the muslims, only the form of expression with the least tradition.

Honeybee
Honeybee

-Muslims definitely believe that their version is the truth.  Many Muslims will passively condone the killing of non-Muslims. Not many Christians would condone the killing of non-Christians (not in this day and age, anyway.  Medieval Christians, though....wow...A violent confluence of societal norms, ignorance, and people who literally could not read the truths of the Bible for themselves).-Religious belief declines with education level.  Funny though, education level correlates strongly with life decisions that correlate to religious beliefs (well educated people are, like very religious people, less likely to divorce, become pregnant out of wedlock, etc).

Chevytexas
Chevytexas

Excellent point amidst all of this railery between sectarian definitions: they're not Baptists any more than they're Christians, even if they use the name (I don't even know if they're from poor Westboro)... a point that should be taken about Islam and every other faith being discussed here.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Thank you, and we can dream, I suppose.If your friend can get Fred Phelps to choke on some guys dick while smoking crack and strangling kittens in a vat of wine, then maybe my opinions can be shifted.Until then, I stand by my assessment.

Keep reading.My snark and opinions have such a small audience, I appreciate the commentary.

RTGolden
RTGolden

My meaning was that, usually when I come across your comments, even if I don't agree with all of them, they're well written, thoughtful, and only somewhat snarky.  I actually happen to agree with you on this point, in fact, was telling a church-going co-worker today that the church needs to actively and succinctly boot out the mouth-breathing peckerwoods if they ever want to be taken seriously in this country.

Montemalone
Montemalone

I'm not sure what your meaning is, but I'll tell you what I think.Xtians in general have allowed a group of hateful, vocal, assholes to speak and act for the group for so long that I have no choice.How about all these loving, embracing, open hearted xtians take control of the situtation instead of always coming late to the game and criticizing others for calling out the haters?

RTGolden
RTGolden

WOW!  Isn't there a group of christians celebrating every US military death they can?  Nothing like a double standard to round out the afternoon.  Like any other group, you can't judge all christians by the acts of a few.I really expected better from you.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I don't think she stated that Islam condones the killing of Jews and Christians.  She stated that SOME (emphasis my own) Muslims will passively condone the killing of non-Muslims.  In this, she would be correct.  Of course, she would also be correct if she stated some atheists would condone killing certain 'christians' with slick hair and bad (in their opinion) politics.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Bullshit!

Xtians were and are cheering for soldiers to go shoot dead them terrists, which is simply a euphamism for Muslims.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Actually, Islam is the only of the three that says that Jews and Christians and others who believe in God, and love their neighbor as themselves will enjoy Jenna (heaven)  The only time they condone the killing of others is if they occupy their lands, interfere with their way of life, prevent them from practicing their faith and refusing to negotiate in good faith.  We condone killing for a lower threshold than that, so you might do a bit more research.  I'm not judging "Christians" by Hitler's example, nor should you judge Islam by a few rogue actors--especially when you've failed to put yourself in their shoes.  I don't know that your religious belief relative to education level correlates, but, I would say fundamentalism tends to decline along with education level.  Islam simply isn't challenged by science as Christianity historically as been. 

Honeybee
Honeybee

I completely agree with you.Not only did "Christian" colonizers mistreat the Native Americans (who were, to be fair, equally vicious to weaker tribes and women), "Christians" killed Native Americans and wildlife indiscriminately and stood on piles of dead bison to have their pictures taken--and that was just the crew that didn't own slaves.I see it as more of the behavior of the times--kill or be killed, dominate or be dominated--that we no longer live by and not as a religious/race/ethnicity thing.

I also agree that following religious dictates will benefit both believers and nonbelievers, but that dogma can often be propaganda.

99.9% of us on planet Earth want to get along and respect one another.  It's the .1%, however, that makes it hard and leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths.  I, a Christian, once hosted a dinner that included Serbian Muslims who had been put into a concentration camp by "Christians" and miraculously survived.  Luckily for me, they saw me more as an "American" and they knew Americans to be tolerant, compassionate people regardless of religion (and we are!).

And no real Christian would tell you that you are "wrong".  You are finding your way like the rest of us, on terms comfortable and meaningful to you.  Forget the Perrys of the world, although even he would not claim to be perfect.

Darryl
Darryl

I didn't mean that Muslims were any different than Christians in the sense that they think EVERYONE else is wrong. And Christians have killed in the name of their religion much later than the Middle Ages. Just ask the Native Americans. And there is definitely a difference between being spiritual and being religious. well educated people can be spiritual without buying into religious dogma that is oftentimes just silly.

Darryl
Darryl

Anything that gets under Perry's skin is OK by me. The whole event is damn stupid. Perry's political move to show that's he thinks about Jesus as often as he says "Adios Mofo."

Montemalone
Montemalone

Too bad he's not one of those snake handlin' xtians.That I'd love to watch.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Just skimmed the Complaint.  I can't quite see a cause of action in it.  They don't allege use of public funds.  I can't completely understand their allegation that the Office of the Governor is being used to establish religion.  Perry gets to express his religious beliefs whether he's Governor or not.

Anonymous
Anonymous

What? The use of government authority is almost worse than the use of government funds. He made a proclamation in his capacity as governor of Texas that August 6 be a day of prayer. Within that proclamation he promoted the event at Reliant Stadium. He is entitled to his 1st amendment rights like everyone else. In that case, use your personal twitter account and tell everyone that you're going to this event, and to join me in prayer. 

Guest
Guest

Agreed. As long as no public money is used, and there is no effort to mandate participation or penalize those who do not wish to participate, I don't see how this violates the establishment clause. Gov. Perry is free to participate in religious activity like any other citizen. He can go to whatever church he wants and he is free to express his beliefs. Being an elected official doesn't mean you lose fundamental civil rights. This simply doesn't meet the legal standard for endorsement or establishment. My suggestion to those who oppose it is to organize their own rally/event/gathering.

Jerome Haltom
Jerome Haltom

Well, I should note, that he did print this announcement on Government letterhead. That's nothing that bad in of itself, but it does, at least suggest that he might be using other funds and resources to pull it off. I don't know enough about the specifies to say anything else.

Guest
Guest

I hate Rick Perry and everything he stands for, but I think you're probably right.  A court order preventing Rick Perry from participating in a religious event would violate the freedom of religion and expression clauses of the 1st Amendment. 

Now if they can dig something up showing Texas money being spent on the event, that changes things a little.  They could sue to stop the use of Texas funds, but the event would still go on. 

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