June 10, 2011
The Honorable Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
State of Texas
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2428
Dear Governor Perry,
We write to express our deep concerns regarding your official involvement in a day-long assembly of prayer and fasting sponsored by the American Family Association (AFA) and called “The Response: a call to prayer for a nation in crisis.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) believes that prayer is extremely valuable. However, our core concern is with your official encouragement of citizens and fellow elected officials to attend and participate in a sectarian Christian prayer meeting. Instead of joining Americans together, your leadership of the event is proving to be exclusionary and divisive.
As a staunch advocate for religious freedom, ADL has long urged elected officials at all levels to respect the separation of church and state and to refrain from endorsing or promoting religion. Official statements and proclamations which divide Americans along religious lines are not a productive way to address the problems our society needs to confront.
In your official capacity as Governor of Texas, the web-site for the AFA event refers to you as the “Initiator of the Response.” Furthermore, the site quotes you as stating:
Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.
Some problems are beyond our power to solve, and according to the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, this historic hour demands a historic response. Therefore, on August 6, thousands will gather to pray for a historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose.
I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.
Your invitation to join in a Christian prayer meeting suggests to non-Christians that they are outsiders. Coming from someone elected to serve a religiously pluralistic constituency, it is misguided and deeply insensitive.
There is no question that many Texans and indeed many Americans are facing serious challenges. However, these individuals and families come from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds. It is perfectly appropriate for a minister, priest or other religious leader to call for members of a congregation to look to Jesus for guidance, but it is a religiously divisive and inappropriate message coming from an elected leader.
Our concern is in no way based on hostility toward religion. Rather, it is based on a deep belief in religious freedom. It is one of America’s greatest strengths. The best way to safeguard religious liberty for all Americans is for our government to keep its distance. We therefore urge you to reconsider your participation in and involvement with The Response event. We would appreciate hearing from you regarding this serious issue.
Martin B. Cominsky
Director, ADL Southwest Region
Mark L. Briskman
Director, ADL North Texas Region