At 10:00 am on August 6 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, the conflict between theocracy and democracy will come to a head. One great big pimple.
Texas governor Rick Perry is the newest name being tossed around in the Republican presidential candidate fishbowl. As governor, he once suggested that the Longhorn State threaten to secede from the Union. Sometimes he makes me think that Stan Freberg’s “Yellow Rose of Texas” was fashioned after Perry. Of course Perry was only 5-years old when Freberg’s brilliance came through.
Now Perry is sponsoring The Response: A call to prayer for a nation in crisis. This is a national Christian prayer meeting, in most modern sense. Perry is asking followers who cannot make it to Houston on this fateful Saturday, are asked to join him by hosting a “live Webstream [sic] gathering” in their home.
As a nation, we must come together, call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy according to His grace, mercy, and kindness towards us. 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.
Somehow he is leaving out the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and other non-Christian sects from this all so important date. Shame on him. That is not the American way, where all men and women are created equal and we all have the right to believe as we wish. And if the United States is to be saved, I think Thor and Odin are equally capable.
He called this gathering to replicate Joel 2, a calling to save a great nation. The Response Web site says,
In Joel chapter two, an ancient Hebrew prophet speaks to a nation in crisis and gives her God’s solution: gather together, repent of their sins, and pray to God to intervene on their behalf. In that day the command was for everyone to stop what they were doing and gather for a sacred assembly to turn to God with all their hearts, ‘with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning’ (Joel 2:12).”
At least Joel 2:12 says something like that. “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning…”
But for some reason the rest of the story, the threats of the God of Abraham dealt upon the Israelites on Joel 1, are not mentioned. That famine and drought had taken over the land; that there was no wheat or grain or wine. That the only way to relieve the suffering was to give God an offering of meat? Joel 2:14 “Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”
Does this mean that every Christian household in the nation must make an offering of, let’s say, an Arby-Q and a large Coke before the nation is somehow returned to normalcy? Was our nation ever “normal” since the first arguments against the Crown in the 1750s?
If Perry is a declared presidential candidate and if Perry is declaring this a national or a state day of prayer for any possible political reason, such as to enhance his candidacy, he may be in violation of the Constitution, despite the quotes to the contrary provided on the Response Web site. And this is not without precedence.
In 2010, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a law suit in an attempt to stop the National Day of Prayer. I attended one of these prayer breakfasts when President Carter held his NDP in Denver. Along with 10,000 other Denverites, I listened to Christian sermons over coffee, a fruit plate and really good muffins.
The ruling came on April 15, 2010 with District Judge Justice Barbara Crabb stating, “The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.” Congress may no more declare a National Day of Prayer than it “may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic.”
Concerning Perry’s event, the problem, according to FFRF.org, is that the governor had cross the line of Separation of Church and state when he used the State flag the seal of the state of Texas in his personal sponsoring of the event. In addition, Perry as governor then declared August 6 a Day of prayer by “proclamation, his video invitations and robo-calls urging people to attend.”
It is true that the First Amendment does not use the term “Separation of Church and State.” What it does say is that the people of this great nation have the unalienable right to worship as we please. If Rick Perry as an individual, not as governor or presidential candidate, is sponsoring this meeting, more power to him.
But the First Amendment also declares that this great nation shall make no law in support of religion. In this case, the proclamation for a day of prayer alone appears to violate the Amendment. Just as in the April, 2010 case.
The possible violation becomes clearer with the testimony from Jeffery Boyd, General Counsel for the Office of the Governor of Texas. He said:
Beginning on or about May 18, 2011, the OOG mailed letters that were signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry to several elected officials, including the President and Vice President of the United States, the members of the United States Congress, the members of the Texas Legislature, and the Governors of the other forty-nine United States, inviting them to ”join me on August 6 at Reliant Stadium in Houston for a solemn day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation.
What be more dangerous is if Governor Perry called for a prayer meeting and invited an imam, a rabbi and a priest (it sounds like a bad joke), he would have been condemned by the fundamentalist Christian conservative voting bloc. That very bloc Perry is attempting to take away from Michelle Bachman.
I believe this meeting is political in nature. I believe that Rick Perry is using The Response for his own political gain as governor and as a presidential candidate.
I believe that groups such as FFRF and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are doing more than just preventing the government of sanctioning any religious event. I believe FFRF and AU are doing what Judge Crabb said in her ruling, that
It is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence any individual’s decision whether and when to pray.
It is time to have a backbone and save the United States from fanatic religious blowhards and bring us back to the basic meaning of our democracy, that no church, no religion, will control the lives of all.