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The Brief: July 29, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry's show must go on, a judge ruled Thursday.

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The Big Conversation:

Gov. Rick Perry's show must go on, a judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller dismissed a suit that the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist watchdog group, had filed against Perry's involvement in The Response, his Aug. 6 Houston prayer event, which has drawn sharp criticism from a variety of groups and politicians. The foundation, which filed the suit on behalf of five Houston residents, argued that the governor's participation violated the separation of church and state.

Miller ruled that the group had suffered no injury and thus lacked the legal standing to sue. “The governor has done nothing more than invite others who are willing to do so to pray,” Miller said, according to The Associated Press.

Lawyers for the group said they may appeal the ruling. “I wonder if we had a Muslim governor what would happen if the whole state was called to a Muslim prayer,” Kay Staley, one of five residents on behalf of whom the group filed the suit, told the AP. “I think the governor needs to keep his religion out of his official duties.”

As of this week, reports indicated that it was still unclear whether Perry planned to speak at the event, though he didn't explicitly say why. If the hesitation stemmed from worry over the suit, the ruling could provide Perry with the political cover he needs to make a public appearance.

The ruling came the same day Perry dialed back his recent remark that from a states' rights standpoint, he was "fine" with New York's recent decision to legalize gay marriage. “I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’” Perry said in an interview with the Family Research Council. “Obviously, gay marriage is not fine with me. … Indeed, to not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas and other states, not to have marriage forced upon them by these activists judges and special interest groups.”

Culled:

  • Though talk is fixed on how Gov. Rick Perry will perform as a write-in candidate at the Iowa Straw Poll next month, he'll face his first straw poll test this weekend in Colorado among Western conservatives, according to the Tribune's Jay Root.
  • The Trib's Ross Ramsey reported Thursday that Michael Williams, the former railroad commissioner turned U.S. Senate candidate turned U.S. House candidate, may be mulling a switch to a different congressional race. Williams, who planned to run against former Texas Secretary of State (and fellow Senate race dropout) Roger Williams in a Tarrant County-based district, has reportedly received calls urging him to run in a district that stretches from Tarrant County to Hays County.
  • The Austin American-Statesman reports that an Austin redistricting lawsuit has been combined with several San Antonio cases, further complicating the re-election prospects of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the longtime Democratic congressman, who hoped to have a challenge to the redrawn congressional maps heard in Austin.
  • An AWOL soldier has been arrested for planning an attack on Fort Hood soldiers and a downtown Killeen restaurant. According to ABC News, Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo allegedly told law enforcement that he sought to resurrect the 2009 shooting rampage at the military base that left 13 dead.

“Have you ever heard Rick Perry talk? I thought when I listened to him talk, I thought he was doing a parody of George Bush. And I was looking around to see if anyone else saw the humor in that. And it wasn’t. It was just the way that he talked." — Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a long-shot Republican presidential candidate, to Politico

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