Federal suit over The Response heats up, with request for restraining order against Perry
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the group behind a federal lawsuit against Perry for his involvement in a controversial Aug. 6 prayer rally, is revving up its suit by asking a U.S. district judge to restrict Perry from promoting the event and to revoke his prayer proclamation.
The FFRF argues Perry should be barred from participating in the event as an elected official as it constitutes “extraordinary disregard” of the Establishment Clause.
“It’s very simple,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in a statement. “A state is not a church. Government must not take sides over religious matters. The gubernatorial office, contrary to Gov. Perry’s ambitions, is not a ministerial pulpit. He was elected governor, not pastor-in-chief.”
The national state/church watchdog is requesting the court to direct Perry “to take affirmative steps to disassociate himself from promoting, sponsoring and endorsing the scheduled prayer rally,” like halting use of his name, recordings and invitations to promote the prayer rally.
In describing his “unprecedented proselytizing” and “fundamentalist intrusion,” the FFRF point to unsolicited robocalls made by the Governor’s office inviting Texans to the Christian-based prayer event. Those calls, angering some Jewish and other non-Christian Texans, is “smoking gun” evidence of Perry’s illegal and inappropriate entanglement in a religious event, the FFRF said.
The organization has also filed a transcript of an interview between Perry and Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, the conservative nonprofit co-hosting the event. In part of that conversation Perry says:
“It’s awesome to be on your program, and I can’t wait till the sixth of August rolls around and we can fill up Reliant Stadium with people who are Christ-loving. . . . I know my limitations, and let me tell you I want God helping me, guiding me, giving me direction. And um, that’s the reason that we’ve brought together these Christian leaders of all races, all ages, all Christian denominations. This is a very diverse group.”
Described as “pervasively sectarian” by the FFRF, the Perry-led Houston rally has also come under fire from several local, state and national organizations, including the ACLU who recently filed an open records request to disclose any tax payer funding used in the event, the Texas Independent previously reported.
Oral arguments over the request are set for noon Thursday in a Houston district court; a state response is expected by the same time Wednesday.