Group sues to stop Texas governor's prayer day
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A group of atheists and agnostics filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to stop an evangelical Christian prayer event next month that was proposed and is endorsed by Texas' governor.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation argues in its lawsuit filed in Houston that Republican Gov. Rick Perry's day of prayer and fasting would violate the constitutional ban on the government endorsing a religion. The event, which is called The Response and is billed as Christian-only, is scheduled for Aug. 6 at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
The complaint alleges Perry violated the First Amendment's establishment clause by organizing, promoting and participating in the event.
"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, a co-director of the foundation. "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."
The group, which unsuccessfully sued to stop a national day of prayer earlier this year, filed the case on behalf of 700 members in Texas and called on the court to stop Perry from participating in the meeting or using his office to promote or recognize it.
Perry held a conference call with ministers who will be participating in the event on Wednesday, according to his spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier. She did not have any details on what was discussed, but said the lawsuit will not change Perry's plans.
"He believes it will serve as an important opportunity for Americans to gather together and pray to God, seeking his wisdom and guidance as our nation navigates the challenges before it." Frazier said.
A spokesman for the event, Eric Bearse, dismissed the foundation's claims.
"This kind of legal harassment is no surprise, but we will vigorously defend the right of Americans to assemble and pray and we will win," he said.