In the video, the governor encourages people to pray and fast "like Jesus did" for the nation's problems, to ask for forgiveness, and to "make plans to be part of something even bigger than Texas."
So far, organizers report 6,000 individuals have registered for the event, which is being organized by the controversial American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss. While the event is billed as an "apolitical Christian prayer meeting," AFA's involvement has drawn significant criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Council on Islamic-American Relations. The groups have condemned, among other things, statements made in the past by Bryan Fischer, AFA's director of issue analysis for government and public policy and one of its six "spokespersons."
As Jay Root and Morgan Smith reported in the Trib last month, Fischer has a history of inflammatory comments, blaming gays for the Holocaust and calling on Muslims to convert to Christianity or face U.S. military action. He once blogged that social welfare programs made African-American women want to “rut like rabbits.”
(Update: One of the event's staunchest critics, People for the American Way, has posted this mash-up juxtaposing Perry's video and snippets of controversial figures they claim are supporting the event.)
Perry has invited all of his fellow governors to attend the event; so far, only one other has said he will be joining Perry in Houston: Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas.
The event is free to the public. Reliant Stadium can hold as many as 71,500 people.
To gauge interest, we also looked at some anecdotal information. As of Tuesday morning, the event's web page indicates more than 13,000 people 'like' the event on Facebook. Perry's official Facebook page shows nearly 800 people 'like' the video invitation. In addition, there are more than 400 comments that range from those who strongly support the event to those who are offended Perry is taking on a partisan, religious cause in the midst of major state budget cuts. Some indicate they have registered for the event; others say they are disappointed they can't make it.
A sample of some of the comments:
- "Thank you Gov. Perry and thank you for including Jesus...the Name above ALL other names!" — Carol Lovette
- "I would love to be there, but I will be in Phoenix that day! However, I will be standing in agreement with you Governor Perry! God Bless you!" — Joshua Lowrance
- "I will be praying for education in Texas as they face the crisis that the governor and legislature have made so much worse." — Mary Elkins Lewis
- Excuse me for my cynicism, but I don't need Reliant Stadium and thousands of people with TV coverage to pray for anything. And individual prayers are valued more than public posturing." — Evelyn Cowart