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MILLER: Atheists unbless Texas

Godless group sues Rick Perry over prayer day event

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2011

A theists don't want Texas Gov. Rick Perry to have a prayer day this summer. On Wednesday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asked a federal judge to block "The Response," an event where Christians would gather in Houston to turn to God for direction and unity for an aggrieved nation.

The anti-God brigade insists this is a First Amendment violation, and it will also seek a restraining order to bar Mr. Perry's participation.

FFRF president Annie Laurie Gaylor says the suit is warranted because Mr. Perry does not see a distinction between his personal beliefs and his duty and obligations as the state's chief executive. "He has taken an oath of office to uphold a completely secular and godless Constitution where there is no religion in it - much less Jesus, much less days of prayer and fasting," she told The Washington Times in an interview. "It's way over the top."

Eric Bearse, a spokesman for organizers of "The Response," explained that the event is not sponsored by the state. "Hundreds of years of legal precedent make clear Americans can assemble and pray without interference from the government," Mr. Bearse told The Washington Times. "If their objection were to hold legal muster, it would literally have the chilling effect of preventing a governor or any other public official from attending worship services."

Mr. Perry had issued a proclamation declaring Saturday, Aug. 6 to be "A Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation." The official document invited Texans to join him at Reliant Stadium to "pray for unity and righteousness - for this great state, this great nation and all mankind."

He urged that, "given the trials that have beset our country and world ... it seems imperative that the people of our nation should once again join together for a solemn day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation."

Such statements by a public official are prohibited by the Constitution, in Ms. Gaylor's view. "The First Amendment means that the government does not engage in religious speech," she explained. Her organization's goal is to stamp religion out of government, even the daily prayer that has opened Congress since 1789.

The Founding Fathers embraced their faith and would not be bothered by a day of prayer. So it's good Mr. Perry is not backing down. "The pending litigation does not affect plans for the prayer event to move forward as planned," his office said in a written statement. Considering where our country has been heading the past few years, we need all the prayer we can get.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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