Protest Continues Over Prayer Rally

Thousands converge in Houston for tomorrow's statewide prayer rally called by the governor. Critics object saying it threatens the separation of church and state.

When Governor Rick Perry announced the event called "The Response" two months ago, he declared it a day of prayer and fasting to seek what he called God's guidance and wisdom in addressing challenges that face our nation.

But critics objected to an elected official backing a religious event for an exclusive group.

Randy Zarlinsky is director of the American Jewish Committee of Houston. He spoke out about the Governor's participation of what he called an overtly Christian event.

"His call for a day of non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer, stands in stark contrast to the National Day of Prayer hosted by White House, as well as those that take place in cities across the country."

Clarification was sought as to whether taxpayer money was being used for the event.

Terri Burke is executive director of the ACLU of Texas. She says they filed an open records request, hoping to get an answer.

"The Governor's office mailed to us and we received last night, 700 pages of documents. An overnight review of those documents suggest that we have 700 pages of nothing. We still have no clarity, on whether taxpayer dollars have been used in support of tomorrow's event at Reliant Stadium."

She agrees with critics who described the rally as a form of spiritual arrogance. It's lead to alternative faith events being held in other Texas cities at the same time.

"I think it demonstrates what the Governor could have had. It is inclusive. It celebrates diversity. It's the event that says we all have belief systems from which we are called to address societal problems, social injustice, and we have different ways of expressing that. But we believe that government action should be separate from religious actions."

Constitutional law expert Charles "Rocky" Rhodes with the South Texas College of Law, says the two sides of the controversial issue have valid arguments, but the "establishment clause" of the United States Constitution guarantees separation of church and state.

"And that's something that our framing fathers understood. They understood that the role of religion is part and parcel, and it's always been an important part of American life, but yet they wanted to create a system in which there was not too much government interference with religion, or too much religious interference with government."

It's been learned that Governor Perry will give brief remarks, read scripture and offer a prayer in the middle of the program.

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...