Rick Perry’s Controversial Call to Prayer

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Texas governor Rick Perry, who may or may not be considering a presidential run, is partnering with the conservative Christian American Family Association to hold an all-day prayer event in Houston this August. Perry has invited his fellow governors to join him at the event to “call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles” facing the country, including “financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters.”

Several groups, including the Interfaith Alliance and the Secular Coalition, have already expressed concern about the “Christians only” nature of the event, as well as Perry’s apparent official endorsement of a sectarian prayer gathering. Pundits have speculated about whether governors will feel pressure to show up to Perry’s prayer-fest or risk being labeled anti-prayer godless secularists. But at least one Republican governor has already made it clear he won’t be attending, which may open the door for others to decline. Although who wouldn’t want to head to Houston in August?

Summer vacation plans may not be the reason that Georgia Governor Nathan Dean announced through his office that he plans on skipping the prayer gathering. It seems that the American Family Association has been running a year-long boycott against the Atlanta-based Home Depot because the company “has chosen to sponsor and participate in numerous gay pride parades and festivals.”

Last week, an AFA official showed up at a Home Depot board meeting with a petition bearing the names of a half million people who say they will not shop at the home store unless it ceases its “homosexual activism.” Home Depot’s chairman was reportedly unmoved and reiterated the company’s commitment to diversity, a response that indicates social attitudes are shifting away from the AFA’s stock opposition to homosexuality. But Governor Dean still isn’t pleased that the AFA is targeting a major Georgia company (and political contributor).

Other governors haven’t yet responded to Perry’s invite, but they may want to think twice about that whole “pray about natural disasters” thing. You may remember that back in April, Perry issued a proclamation for days of prayer for rain in response to a horrific drought the state of Texas has experienced. He’s not the first governor to respond to weather-related difficulties with state-wide prayer. Governors in Georgia and Alabama have done the same at various point over the past few decades.

And so has the state of South Dakota. In 2004, Republican Governor Mike Rounds proclaimed a state-wide day of prayer to ask for rain for the drought-plagued state. So the people of South Dakota prayed on May 23. And lo, it started to rain. And rain. And rain. For fourteen straight days, it rained. It rained so much that the parched ground couldn’t handle all the water. Some areas of the state flooded and Governor Rounds had to call in FEMA to assess the damage.

Just a word of caution, Governor Perry. The power of prayer is not to be trifled with.