The progressive advocacy group People For the American Way chastised Texas Governor Rick Perry on Monday for his “inappropriate” plans to host a Christian prayer summit at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Perry has proclaimed August 6 as a “Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God’s guidance” and has invited governors from across the nation to attend. The prayer event, dubbed “The Response,” intends to “call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles.”
The event is co-hosted by the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that advocates traditional family values and the reform of American culture “to reflect Biblical truth on which it was founded.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the organization a “hate group” because of its harsh and outspoken views on homosexuality and Islam.
On Monday, “The Response” spokesman Eric Bearse told American Family Radio the event was meant to spread the message that “there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope, if people will seek out the living Christ.”
His radio interview provoked a sharp response from People For the American Way President Michael Keegan.
“Gov. Perry has every right to practice his own faith, but he has no right to use his official position to try to convert others,” Keegan said in a statement. “The governor has dubiously insisted that ‘The Response’ will be open to people of all faiths, but Bearse’s comments have put that claim to rest.”
“Perry has teamed up with an unabashedly anti-gay, anti-Muslim organization to create an event aimed exclusively at Christians and with the goal of converting non-Christians,” he added. “That behavior is inappropriate for any public official, much less one who is weighing a run for the presidency.”
The prayer event is scheduled to occur one week before the highly significant Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, but Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told the New York Times that the timing was coincidental and insisted the event was not political.