I have several friends on Facebook who are devout Christians and will occasionally post statuses reflecting such. This one was posted not too long ago, copied verbatim:
I am proud of Gov. Perry in Texas standing up for prayer for our American Leadership. A seven hour praying crowd of 30,000! Wonder what this country would be like if all of the State leaders held prayer like that?
I know what's going to be discussed in regards to this, but I can't help but ask what your opinions are. I firmly believe in separation of church and state, but how can that happen when prayer rallies are being held by politicians?
Well, we could follow the medieval Christian missionary model: "Join us or Die," but I prefer the modern Christian ideal, which is to merely set a good example in word and deed, and be vocal about our beliefs.
So tempting to hire a crop dusting plane and do leaflet drops.... "think before you pray, god is not real, sorry but he's not"
Gov. Perry's right to hold this prayer session falls under the first amendment to the constitution. I'm a big supporter of that particular amendment, all of it. There's a lot of important stuff in those couple of lines of text. Something about free speech, peaceful assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom to exercise religion. There's also that bit about not writing any laws respecting the establishment of religion.
It would be nice if all of us could just acknowledge the whole amendment. You and I could let these people pray in peace, and they would all be forced to acknowledge that bans on same sex marriage, teaching any form of creationism (including intelligent design), and writing laws to oppose the construction of mosques are all unconstitutional activities.
Freedom of religion means that they can go into their church to pray and that they won't be executed or punished simply for believing what they do. That's all it was ever meant to be. It's not a license to do whatever they want and trample down on all other rights.
If Perry had attended as a private person, that would have been one thing. But he created the whole thing in his position as a government official, endorsed it as a government official and prayed for political improvements. And most importantly it was only a lame show to help his political ambitions. All of those are no-nos.
Since the mid 20th century, the Establishment Clause has also been interpreted to go beyond literally creating laws, but also to favor one religion or over an another and even to promote religion in general. That rally specifically excluded various Christian sects, not to mention non-Christian religions in general.
I agree, it should not have been a government sponsored event. If he wanted to attend a prayer event on his own time, then by all means do, they could even say "we have a special guest in the audience..." But to use his publicly appointed position to promote a religious agenda with State funds... major constitutional violation, don’t care what religious (or non-religious) stance they may support, separation of church and state is there for a reason, can’t be a free nation without it.
Ironically, there are countries with official state religions in Europe that are a lot more free, egalitarian and secular than the US.
That is interesting, but I would still rather live in a place that doesnt have one.
Antarctica? It has no religion. China? Hostile to religion.
As long as you want to live with people and in a place which is free, you will be living with religion.
Steve, it's not just about freedom of religion, he's covered under freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly. The three can and have been used in conjunction.
Perry did attend as a private person, and it was a privately funded event. His position as the states governor does not exclude him from his constitutional privileges. There is no law against blatant pandering.
The establishment clause does not apply here, or it would apply to all religious gatherings. It was a privately funded public gathering that did not specifically exclude anyone who wanted to attend.
We can all agree that this was in poor taste, but if bad taste were illegal there would be whole decades slapped in irons. I understand the backlash, I do, I don't like it anymore than anyone else here, but he hasn't actually done anything illegal.
Did you even watch anything he said? His whole speech was entirely political. He certainly didn't attend as a private person. He attended as governor and a wannabe presidential candidate, and the whole thing came off as state-approved, no matter how it was financed (so easy to use that as a front, given that those groups invest millions in lobbying anyways). He even used government-letterheads and websites to advertise for it. He asked all other governors to attend as well.
@ Steve: No, I didn't watch it, I believe that everything he says was politically motivated, as far as I'm aware people can say pretty much whatever they want at these things, and it's not a secret he's considering a run at the white house. If he used government letterheads and government websites to promote this thing, then that is a breech, but it's slight. I'm aware he asked other governors to attend, they are private people, they are allowed to attend these things same as anyone else. That it came off as state approved is not illegal, as long as it wasn't actually state approved. The only concrete issue here is the use of government letterheads, which I didn't know anything about, but I doubt much is going to come of that.
@ Stephen: If they used the place free of charge then this would indeed be a breech. I have not seen any comment on this, if you've got information on what they paid and to who I would like to see it. I'm not being sarcastic or snarky or whatever, I really would actually like to read it. Media outlets are privately owned institutions, they can cover what they want to, he may enjoy greater access to them but as far as I'm aware that isn't a crime.
As far as I've read, which is something like 12 different articles from the major news outlets, all of this was paid for. The use of government letterheads is news to me, I've only seen it brought up in some of the comments on the articles. As long as the stadium was paid for, at the full asking price, then this group didn't enjoy any special access, and stadiums hold religious events all the time. Whether that is a breech of church and state is another argument.
There was indeed money used but the ACLU is still awaiting clarification on how much. They filed a request and were buried in 700 pages of whatthe ACLU director called pages of nothing on August 3rd with no definitive answer on the dollars spent.
The governors office says that public funding was negligible.
Negligible is not NOTHING.