Governor Perry to organize “day of prayer and fasting” in conjunction with hate group

Credit: Chuck Coker on Flickr

It’s rare that I title posts as sensationally as I have this one, but this particular story has been pushing my buttons since I woke up this morning. So consider this one of the times where I live up to the “frustrated” part of my blog title.

Rick Perry, governor of Texas, has invited the governors of each state to join him at a “day of prayer and fasting” event called “The Response” that is being held in Houston, in partnership with the American Family Association, an organization that describes itself as “a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society,” and is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Perry has also designated the day of the event, August 6, as an official “Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation” in Texas, and has urged other states to follow suit. Gov. Perry has already declared three other “days of prayer” in Texas in April, when he asked residents to pray for rain in the face of extreme drought and wildfires in North Texas.

Now that we have those facts of the story squared away, let’s square away one more: This is a waste of time.

If a private organization wants to have a special prayer meeting to pray and fast, hoping that it will help solve our nation’s problems, that’s their call. If Gov. Perry wants to attend this event as a private citizen, he’s welcome to do that, as well. The same goes for any other elected official. It’s still not going to help, but they’re free to do so, nonetheless. However, Perry is promoting and attending this event in his capacity as governor, and is encouraging other governors to do the same. That is inappropriate.

According to Aman Batheja at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Perry’s office has stated that no state funds are being used for the governor’s involvement in this event. However, I can’t imagine that at least some non-monetary state resources weren’t used when Gov. Perry issued his declaration of a statewide day of prayer and fasting in conjunction with the AFA’s “The Response” event, and I also can’t imagine that his selection of that day was any sort of coincidence. Further, it’s not as if this day of prayer even pretends to be inclusive of all faiths in the way that the National Day of Prayer does. The press release from the Office of the Governor even states (emphasis mine), “His call to prayer on Aug. 6th is a non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer service to seek forgiveness, healing and blessing for our country.”

If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, then it’s probably a state endorsement of religion. And that’s not okay.

Hate group

If the constitutional squickiness isn’t enough to rub you the wrong way, this whole thing is inextricably linked with the American Family Association, an organization that was identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2005 as engaging in hate speech in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Texas’ anti-sodomy laws in 2003. In 2010, the SPLC changed its designation of AFA from a group that used hate speech to a hate group, citing the AFA’s “propagation of known falsehoods and demonizing propaganda” as the primary reason for the change. In addition to the group’s demonstrably false anti-gay propaganda such as the notion that gays caused the Holocaust, the AFA’s issues director, Bryan Fischer, is responsible for a veritable vault of gems of bigotry including:

  • Native Americans deserved to lose control of North America because their refusal to convert to Christianity made them morally unfit to deserve the land, and their poverty and alcoholism is God’s punishment for their failure to embrace Christianity. (Source with link to the original blog post, which I refuse to post here.)
  • Christianity is the only way that democracy can be established in the Islamic world, the U.S. should send a campaign of missionaries and marines to facilitate this conversion, and if Muslims refuse to convert, they should die. (Source, again with links to the original posts.)

I think you get the picture. I feel like I fell down the rabbit hole just researching that last part, and I feel like I need to take a shower after typing all that out. Anyway, this is the kind of ideology that Gov. Perry is aligning himself and the entire state of Texas with by promoting this “Day of Prayer and Fasting” for the nation.


Putting all that aside, though, even if this event were affiliated with a completely upstanding organization instead of a hate group, it would still be wrong and it would still be a waste of time. There shouldn’t even be the appearance of a state endorsement of a religious practice. And prayer isn’t going to help the problems that the state of Texas or the United States are facing, anyway (no matter what you think those problems are).

What is also telling are the things that Gov. Perry has asked other state governors to pray about (PDF link warning):

  • “Natural disasters”
  • “The global economic downturn”
  • “The lingering danger of terrorism”
  • “Continued debasement of our culture”

So much for “apolitical.” I don’t disagree that these are in fact issues that are facing our country, though I feel that Gov. Perry and I might disagree on the definitions of a few of these issues. However, you won’t catch me praying about them on August 6, or any other day. If Gov. Perry and others really want to do something about the problems that face our nation and the world, get off your collective butts and do something. Praying is not doing. I’m talking about action, even if it’s just a little thing. Let’s run through Gov. Perry’s list really quick and look at one thing an average person could do and one thing an elected official could do to help solve these problems instead of wasting a Saturday praying about them.

Natural Disasters

Generally speaking, no one can prevent natural disasters. However, much can be done to mitigate harm, destruction and loss of life. Here is one thing for elected officials and one thing for individuals to do in order to help with problems that are caused by natural disasters.

Elected officials: Improve and enforce building codes that make structures safer and more resilient against natural disasters.

Individuals: Prepare yourself in case of disaster by creating a disaster plan with your family.

Global Economic Downturn

What should be done about the global economic downturn is not only a hot political debate, but a hot academic one, as well. I don’t claim to have the solution to it any more than anyone else does (or should). But below are a couple of suggestions that most rational people would agree with.

Elected officials: Stop screwing around with Medicare and just vote to raise the debt limit already. Yes, I know the debt limit is a fun little fiscal-political football to kick around and hold up as a symbol of what’s wrong with our national financial house. But if you thought the economic collapse of 2008 was bad, just wait until you see what happens when the United States starts defaulting on its debts.

Individuals: Make a personal or family budget and long-term financial plan to help you to pay off your debts and live within your means. Many people regularly struggle to make ends meet, pay off toxic or high-interest debt, or save for the future. Sometimes, this is an unavoidable circumstance of being underemployed, but often it is a merely consequence of poor financial planning. Find a method that works for you, whether it’s using a utility like Quicken or Mint, writing it all down on paper, speaking with a financial counselor at your financial institution, or something else entirely.

The dangers of terrorism

To quote the blog of the Houston Press, “Terrorism’s been around in one form or another since about two months after man fully evolved…and probably before that. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.” But there are always things that can be done to mitigate it. It’s also important to remember that terrorism comes in more flavors than just Radical Muslim Suicide Bomber. They also come in Militant Environmentalist/Animal-Rights Activist and Christian Pro-Life Warrior flavors, just to name a couple. But when it comes to global terrorism, we all would do well to remember the adage, “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter,” and take the time to actually understand the circumstances surrounding the rise of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Hamas. This understanding will better inform the actions taken under the following advice:

Elected officials: Ensure that the drawdown of American involvement in foreign regions where terrorism is an issue does not result in premature abandonment of those regions. When we tried that approach with trying to prevent the spread of Communism, it kind of ended with the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Individuals: Practice tolerance in your own communities. Tolerance doesn’t mean giving a person or a group a free pass on illegal or truly harmful behavior simply because it’s their belief, but it does mean supporting their right to do lawful things, even if you disagree with the action or their reasons for taking that action. Nothing makes a minority group or individual more insular or more prone to extreme beliefs than the feeling that they’re consistently under attack by the majority. To that end, I support the right of AFA to hold “The Response,” and I support the right of Gov. Perry to attend this event as a private citizen, even though I disagree with everything the event and the AFA stand for.

Debasement of our culture

Now this is a sticky one. I’m inclined to agree that there has been significant debasement of our culture in recent decades, but not for the reasons that Perry and the AFA are likely thinking. From where I’m sitting, American culture is debased with every anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant, anti-equality, anti-dignity, anti-freedom or anti-progress word that is uttered or policy that is instituted. Want to know how to truly begin reversing the debasement of American culture? Start by thinking for yourself and learning for yourself about what American culture really is, and not simply accepting the revisionist crap about this being a “Christian nation” that’s so blithely bandied about these days. Continue the reversal by following Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a dick. That goes for private citizens and elected officials alike. And while I’m here, a little more advice about how to curtail the debasement of American culture:

Elected officials: Stop. Cutting. Education. You. Bloody. Idiots.

Individuals: Be a tourist in your own town. Visit historical sites. Go to museums. Take in a play or a concert by local artists. Tour a factory or a brewery or a farm or whatever makes your local economy tick. Learn about why the place you live is what it is.


In Conclusion…

Sitting on your butt praying isn’t going to do diddly squat to solve the problems facing your state, your nation, or the world. And in the United States, the last time I checked, our leaders have no business telling us how, when, or even if we should pray about anything, and they certainly shouldn’t be using their office as a platform to do so. If Gov. Perry or any other state governor wants to go to “The Response,” it is certainly their right to do so as private citizens. That means no public money or public resources should be used for travel, lodging, food, or anything else while Perry and any other elected official who chooses to attend is on their little prayer weekend vacation. And while I will reiterate that anyone is perfectly free and within their rights to attend this event or privately pray for any of the things discussed above, I will also point out that I am well within my rights to say that the entire thing is a complete and utter waste of time. It might make you feel better about yourself, but in the end, you’ve done absolutely nothing of substance to solve the problems you’re so concerned about.

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