Gov. Rick Perry May Have Used Taxpayer Dollars to Promote "The Response," Says ACLU

Diversity-minded, Constitution-abiding folks are pissed at tomorrow's one-day Jesus camp called "The Response." Governor Rick Perry, of course, is the belle of the ball. It's a little complicated since he's primarily our governor, not Jesus-seeking missile.

An open records request muddied the holy waters a bit more.

Last night, in Response to the ACLU's request about whether the governor used taxpayers' dollars to support the event, the office dumped 700 pages in their laps. "Our staff is still poring through them, but we're pretty convinced we got 700 pages of nothing," Terri Burke, executive director of ACLU of Texas, told Hair Balls. "There's nothing there that's responsive to our question."

Burke and other representatives from the area gathered this morning to commiserate about how whack The Response is. Everyone was primarily concerned with the flagrant disregard for separation of church and state.

"When the governor is not in office, he can call for an exclusive Christian community prayer as much as he wants," said Mustafaa Carroll, executive director for local Muslim group CAIR-TX. "We have no problem with that. However, no government official or entity should be in the business of promoting or favoring one specific religion."

Randy Czarlinsky, director of American Jewish Committee's Houston region, denounced the "overtly Christian" event. "The Texas governor violated the most basic commands of the First Amendment: that government not discriminate between faiths," he said.

Two Christian leaders spoke about how Perry-brand Christianity is only appealing to a tiny fringe of the religion's devotees. "I do not believe that our nation is under a curse because we have welcomed non-Christians and gay people in the full rights and citizenship of America," said the Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "I don't believe that the Statue of Liberty is a demon idol given to us by French Freemasons. I don't favor renaming the city in which I work, Washington D.C., the District of Christ."

These are claims all publicly made by sponsors of The Response. At times, the program's message doesn't even resemble Christianity, said Bill Martin, senior fellow for religion and public policy at Rice University. He took issue with the very fact that Perry is drawing attention to his own prayers, which the Bible discourages.

Not that the governor is responsible for getting his own religion right. There are plenty who hold that job, if only Perry would let them handle religion -- and the politics. "The last time I checked, there was no dearth of preachers in the state of Texas," said Rev. Lynn. "They're quite capable of spreading evangelistic messages all by themselves without any government approval."

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