Texas Gov. Rick Perry had big plans for his exclusionary Christian prayer rally this Saturday. He was so proud of the event that he invited all 49 other governors to attend.
The RSVPs to “The Response” have been trickling in, and it doesn’t look good. So far, the number of governors who plan to attend the event at Houston’s Reliant Stadium in person stands at exactly zero, notes the American Independent.
Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas had planned to come, and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana said he might swing by. But gay rights groups in Kansas made quite a stir by pointing out that the American Family Association (AFA), one of the groups organizing the event, is vociferously anti-gay. The AFA has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
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Suddenly Brownback says he plans to be on vacation, and Jindal isn’t talking about the event any more.
Even conservative governors like Paul LePage of Maine, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Scott Walker of Wisconsin have begged off. As of today, it looks like the only other governor who will put in face time is Rick Scott of Florida – and he’s sending a videotaped message. (A few other governors have issued letters or proclamations supporting the event.)
Even Perry himself seems to be stepping back a bit. He now says he’s not sure what his role at the rally will be.
So what’s going on here?
Part of the problem may be that Perry’s allies are just a little – how shall I put this? – “out there.” One of the endorsers of the rally, John Benefiel of the Heartland Apostolic Reformation Network, believes Washington, D.C., is named for a pagan goddess and is thus under a curse. He also believes the Statue of Liberty is a “demonic idol.”
And check out this great piece from the Texas Observer. Writer Forrest Wilder points out that Alice Patterson, who has been asked to mobilize churches in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma for The Response, claims that the Democratic Party is controlled by “an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure.”
Patterson says that during a 2009 meeting in Houston, she spotted the biblical figure of Jezebel accompanied by Lilliputian demons. Patterson asserts that she “saw Jezebel’s skirt lifted to expose tiny Baal, Asherah, and a few other spirits. There they were – small, cowering, trembling little spirits that were only ankle high on Jezebel’s skinny legs.”
The AFA is getting kookier by the day as well. I get emails from the group, and lately they have become obsessed with Home Depot. The group is convinced that Home Depot has become a tool of the gay conspiracy. AFA keeps sending me this video of a Home Depot float in a San Francisco gay pride parade. (Look! There’s the Home Depot mascot marching in front of the float! Will somebody please think of the children?)
The rally is taking heat from all sides. The Houston Chronicle has reported that more than 50 Houston-area religious and community leaders have signed a statement expressing “deep concern” because the rally is “not open to all faiths.”
In addition, Perry’s prayer fest is being dumped on by certain fundamentalists who are convinced that the governor’s Pentecostal pals are espousing “unbiblical” beliefs. When the Religious Right starts throwing that term around, it’s time to duck. A theological food fight of biblical proportions is brewing.
With all of this going on, I can understand why so many governors have begged off. Why step into this theological quicksand?
Reliant Stadium seats more than 71,000. It will be interesting to see how much of it the governor’s friends manage to fill.
In the meantime, if you live in the Houston area and want to attend an alternative event that isn’t run by religious extremists, stop by the “Family, Faith and Freedom” celebration Friday, Aug. 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Mount Ararat Baptist Church, 5801 W. Montgomery Road, Houston.
This celebration of diversity, inclusion and unity is sponsored by Americans United and the Texas ACLU. A variety of religious and secularist speakers will be on hand. Among them will be AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. I can guarantee that he’ll be happy to see you – no matter who you worship, where you worship or even if you worship.