Texas Governor Rick Perry, who may seek the Republican presidential nomination, urged Americans to seek a personal relationship with God at a rally to pray in response to terrorism, natural disasters and financial turmoil.
Perry read scripture and offered a prayer for the nation, its leaders and American military personnel killed yesterday in Afghanistan. “We pray for our president, that you would impart your wisdom on him, that you would guard his family,” Perry said, without mentioning Barack Obama’s name.
The event yesterday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium included prayers by evangelical Christian leaders including James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family ministry, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. A website promoting the rally said it aimed to “call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles.”
“His agenda isn’t a political agenda; his agenda is a salvation agenda,” Perry said at the rally that attracted more than 30,000 people. “He’s a wise, wise God and he’s wise enough to know not to be affiliated with any political party.”
While Perry invited other U.S. governors to attend the rally, only Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, appeared. Florida Governor Rick Scott, also a Republican, delivered taped remarks by video. Perry, who got involved with rally planning months before he began considering a run for president, believes in the power of prayer, spokesman Mark Miner said. Perry earlier this year urged Texans to pray for rain amid the worst drought in decades.
Dobson compared problems facing the U.S. to World War II’s Battle of Dunkirk and credited prayers by citizens with helping prompt Nazi leaders to halt their advance against the British Army in May 1940.
“We are desperately in need of our own miracle,” Dobson said. “Our nation is surrounded by forces we don’t control and problems that none of our leaders can solve.
Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union faulted Perry for his role and the exclusion of speakers from non-Christian faiths.
“Perry wasn’t elected to be the preacher of the state or the country,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington. “Organizing prayer rallies isn’t in any governor’s portfolio.”
In his comments, Perry said God “deserves not a show of religion but a deep connection with our innermost being.” God is “calling Americans of all walks of life to seek him, to return to him, to seek his acceptance.”
Private groups paid for the rally, which didn’t charge admission. Parking at the stadium, which is home to the National Football League’s Houston Texans and can seat 71,500, was $15.