More than 30,000 people packed Houston’s Reliant Stadium to attend Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s mega prayerfest named “The Response,” a clarion call to all Christian Americans for a national day of prayer for our troubled nation.
But lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans — Christians and non-Christians — were not invited.
And you wouldn’t have known it from Gov. Rick Perry’sremarks:
“I’m so humbled to be in the midst of men and women who have answered the call to prayer and fast for our nation. …Like all of you, I love this country deeply, thank you all for being here.”
But the American Family Association (AFA), one of the largest and most influential traditional family values organizations in the country that has over two million online supporters, financed the event. This Tupelo, Mississippi-based Christian group has activity lobbied against the acceptance of LGBTQ Americans by publicly stating, “We oppose the homosexual movement’s efforts to convince our society that their behavior is normal.” The AFA unapologetically promotes the idea that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that can be cured through religious teachings in ex-gay ministries. The organization focuses its anti-gay crusade primarily through television and other media, both nationally and abroad.
For example, in 2007, the AFA spoke out against IKEA for featuring lesbian and gay families in their television ads. In June 2008, the AFA protested a Heinz television ad, shown in the UK, for featuring two men kissing, and Heinz withdrew the ad. And in July 2008, the AFA boycotted of McDonald’s because McDonald’s had a director on its board from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
But AFA wasn’t the only anti-LGBTQ organization at the rally. Representatives from Tony Perkins’s Family Research Council and Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family also attended.
Perry stated “The Response” wasn’t a disguised platform for his political aspiration to run for the presidency in 2012, but rather a simple Christian rally praying for all Americans, even Obama, during these difficult times.
“We pray for our nation’s leaders, Lord, for parents, for pastors, for the generals, for governors, that you would inspire them in these difficult times,” Perry told those gathered at Reliant Stadium. “Father, we pray for our President, that you would impart your wisdom upon him, that you would protect his family.”
However, I am confused about Perry’s role serving the American people. If Perry were a minister who had the backing of anti-gay organizations, I wouldn’t be so troubled. But Perry is a governor, whose oath to office is to represent not simply his evangelical conservative base, but rather every citizen in the Lone Star State.
Who would have ever thought that the hard earned gains that have been won to separate the church — an institution that summarily can and has excluded LGBT people — from the state — an institution that we have leverage to be included in — would once again be violated by an elected official, and a Texan no less?
Perry states if he considers a presidential run it will be done in part out of a religious calling. And no doubt, a calling to bow to the Christian Right.
And would we, LGBTQ Americans, not re-experience the Bush era?
Baby Bush (George Walker) unapologetically espoused a theocratic model for government to effect laws and government structures according to his Christian ideal — an ideal that never worked, on the best of his days in office — that egregiously violated the civil rights LGBTQ Americans.
Did I wish Bush had concealed his zeal as a born-again Christian? Not at all!
“Freedom of religion is a good thing. So is freedom from the religion others may wish to impose on those who differ,” wrote Charles Kimball, author of “When Religion Becomes Evil.”
American democracy suffers when people have to be closeted about their faith because it fosters a climate of religious intolerance. And while our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and not freedom from religion, it prohibits the establishment of a state religion. Bush, however, molded his presidency into that of a Christian church-state. And in so doing, his theistic imperative was solely to do the will of God and not the will of the American people.
And in so doing, Bush’s eliding of church and state boundaries diminished not only his political authority as a world leader that he so cherished, but it also diminishes one of the central objectives he wanted to obtain during his presidency — moral authority.
Perry’s rally positioned him as having moral authority, but he’s no friend to LGBTQ Americans. He opposes same-sex marriages, and he vehemently opposed the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence vs. Texas, which struck down a Texas same-sex anti-sodomy law.
However, for Perry to have moral authority, he cannot as a governor call Americans to a Christian rally that by its invitation and sponsors exclude LGBT people, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and many others. And he cannot impose his religious views into the fabric of American democracy.