Homophobic Gov. Rick Perry is courting the Christian Right in preparation for a run at the White House in 2012.
He recently invited fellow governors to join him on Aug. 6 for “a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation.”
Whatever the goals, his plan has drawn strong protests from advocates for the separation of church and state, who say an elected leader should not be leading what looks to be, in effect, an evangelical Christian revival. Gay rights groups are also objecting because Mr. Perry placed the event in the hands of conservative religious groups that not only oppose gay marriage but also stridently condemn homosexuality.
While the day of prayer will undoubtedly please many evangelicals — a powerful bloc in the Republican Party — it has provoked sharp criticism from other quarters, particularly because of its explicit evangelical Christian theme, which sets it apart from National Prayer Days and other events that normally include all faiths.
The Web site created for the event, which is called The Response, says the meeting “has adopted the American Family Association statement of faith,” including the infallibility of the Bible, the centrality of Jesus Christ and the eternal damnation that awaits nonbelievers.
“I have followed religion and politics closely for 35 years, and I have never seen a governor initiate and lead this kind of Christians-only prayer rally,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The Human Rights Campaign in Washington, a gay rights organization, accused Mr. Perry of “aligning with groups that, on a daily basis, seek to demonize” gay and lesbian people.
Leaders of the American Family Association and of the International House of Prayer, a co-sponsor of the event, describe homosexuality as a moral blight. The family association, for example, links public acceptance of homosexuality to what it calls the “increasing ungodliness and depravity assaulting our nation.”