Texas Governor Rick Perry is calling on his counterparts from other states to join him in Houston in August
for a Christian prayer rally "on behalf of our troubled nation."
The invitation, extended earlier this week, will surely stoke rumors
that Perry is running for the Republican presidential nomination. The governor, who has served more than a decade in Texas' top job, said last month that he would "think about" entering the still-unsettled GOP field. The summertime rally would provide a high-profile venue for Perry to shore up support among the fundamentalist Christians who are a key part of the Republican primary electorate.
As word of Perry's invitation spread, other governors were put on the spot about whether they would attend the event, which will be held at Reliant Stadium -
home of the NFL's Houston Texans -
and will involve a day of prayer and fasting. Democrat Mike Beebe of Arkansas and Republicans Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Rick Snyder of Michigan were among those who declined the invitation, while GOP Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas accepted. Other governors said their August schedules hadn't been set yet.
Perry's invitation involves more than just scheduling considerations, of course. While he has stressed that the event is open to those of all faiths, he also has made clear that the rally is first and foremost a Christian gathering. "As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy," Perry says in a video on the website for the rally
That has led to pushback from several organizations, including the Secular Coalition for America, which represents nonreligious Americans. "Our nation's governors represent Americans of all beliefs, not simply Christians," the group said in a statement. "We urge all elected officials to reject Governor Perry's invitation to attend this explicitly Christian platform for theocratic grandstanding that does nothing to offer substantive solutions to our country's problems."