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Federal suit filed against Perry for his part in AFA-sponsored prayer rally

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/06/RickPerry_Thumb2.jpgThe Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit today against Gov. Rick Perry, questioning the constitutionality of his involvement in “The Response,” his upcoming prayer rally in Houston.

The Wisconsin-based, atheist/agnostic organization is asking the court to decide if Perry’s involvement with the event breaks constitutional law, a Fox affiliate station in Houston reported.

According to an FFRF statement, the complaint focuses on separation of church and state issues, as well as Perry’s partnership with the controversial American Family Association.

The group says the plans amount to “governmental establishment and endorsement of religion, including prayer and fasting, which are not only an ineffectual use of time and government resources, but which can be harmful or counterproductive as a substitute for reasoned action.”

As a perceived violation of the Establishment Clause, the group says the Christian-based prayer event gives the “appearance that the government prefers evangelical Christian religious beliefs over other religious beliefs and non-beliefs, including by aligning and partnering with the American Family Association, a virulent, discriminatory and evangelical Christian organization known for its intolerance.”

Perry’s actions as governor, write FFRF, give “official recognition” to a devotional event, “endorse religion, have no secular rationale, and seek to encourage citizens to pray and non-Christians to convert to Christianity.”

“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,” said Dan Barker, co-director of the 16,600-member group, and a former evangelical minister who is now an atheist. “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.”

Filed in Southern District Court of Texas in Houston, the suit also seeks to strip the use of the official state seal of Texas in video promotions of the event, hoping to rule such use unconstitutional, and remove his written and videotaped promotions and radio recordings from the AFA website.

The suit also calls for Perry to also remove links to the event on his own website.

The group previously raised similar questions over the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer. While a U.S. District Judge ruled in April 2010 that the national prayer day was unconstitutional, a federal appeals court eventually dismissed the ruling.

The Texas Independent reported earlier this week on how AFA’s nonprofit status limits what Perry and others can say at the event.

Read the full FFRF complaint:

Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Perry complaint

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