Texas Governor Rick Perry has certainly received an overwhelming amount of media attention lately. Between media speculation on his potential bid for the White House, and his organization of “The Response,” Gov. Perry has his work cut out for him. However, what worries me is the latter, and I think any American that values religious freedom should be bothered by it as well.
One of the beauties of America is our guarantee to religious freedom, and the fact that religious politicians are allowed to remain religious. And it should remain that way. As Interfaith Alliance president of and State of Belief host Rev. Welton Gaddy pointed out, Gov. Perry has a right to pray privately, but to use his public office in any way to promote sectarian prayer, via an event such as the Response, seems wrong.
You can read more about it and see Gov. Perry’s public invitation here, but what is most upsetting about the event, is that it seems to unnecessarily entangle politics and religion in an exclusionary manner. This event gives the appearance that Gov. Perry is endorsing prayer (only one particular kind of prayer) as an alternative means of finding solutions to real world problems facing his state and our nation. And this is no speculation. In the past few weeks, there have been numerous occasions on which Perry has said so. As Rev. Gaddy said in his press statement,
“The sound that is needed is not a loud one that reverberates in heaven, as the governor suggests, but one that covers the earth as people in need sigh with relief when their burdens are lightened and their needs are met.”
Furthermore, as Sarah Posner questioned on State of Belief, in the context of his Response, it is unclear whether or not Gov. Perry truly believes in this instance that prayer is the answer to America’s problems, or if he is using such an event to appeal to certain potential voters. If it is his conviction that doing so would save America from the serious challenges we face, then that’s one thing. But if his motive is the latter, then there is another problem problem. As Rev. Gaddy reminded all currently-running candidates for the office of President in a recent letter , religion should not be used as a “political tool.”
Many groups agree that an event such as the Response should not exist, particularly in its current form- to the dismay of many Americans, clergy members, and politicians, this event is exclusively Christian.
So, it seems that on August 6, America will see a new form of divisiveness, a Day of Entanglement, in the form of Rick Perry’s “Response.”
For a little levity and satire, check out Stephen Colbert’s recent segment about The Response.
For more on Rick Perry’s “Response”, and the implications of such a day, check out this discussion with Sarah Posner on State of Belief. (Please note, these are extended versions of the interviews originally broadcast nationwide.)