I didn’t know that there were any here in the Bible Belt, but apparently Houston area atheists have filed suit against Rick Perry for sponsoring The Response, Rick Perry’s call to Christian prayer and fasting so that the Christian god, or gods, may help us through these troubling times.
Their case? Weak. In summary, here is what they have against Rick Perry’s participation in this planned event, from the Austin American-Statesman:
“Perry’s participation in the Aug. 6 event amounts to government sponsorship and endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment.”
“Prayer and fasting, the Wisconsin-based organization said in the lawsuit, ‘are not only an ineffectual use of time and government resources, but which can be harmful or counterproductive as a substitute for reasoned action.’”
Now there is some basis for the first argument. Rick Perry, under color of law as a governor of the state, is holding a Christian-only prayer event, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, B’hai, or Jews need not apply. This runs counter to the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.
They have a point.
Where the argument falls apart is the judgmental claim that a prayer meet-up can be harmful or counterproductive. That is a value judgment, almost as religious a claim that prayer brings help from on high.
No, if I were going to file a lawsuit against this event I would definitely concentrate on the fact that the organizers of the event is the hate-filled American Family Association, who, despite their innocuous name, has, through its issues director, alleged “that gays caused the Holocaust—and are planning on doing it again; that gays should be banned from holding public office; that homosexuality should be criminalized; that foreign Muslims should either be converted to Christianity or subjected to lethal force; that American Muslims should be deported; that there should be a permanent ban on mosque construction in the United States; and that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in the armed forces.”
Not that their beliefs are illegal, they have a perfect right to hold lunatic ideas like that. But that Rick Perry, as governor of Texas, endorses these rightwing extremist notions. Taxpayers should not have to be made to support this kind of extremism.