Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Houston Religious Leaders Object to Governor's Call for Prayer Rally

Gov. Rick Perry
More than 50 religious and community leaders, including Gulf Coast Synod Bishop Michael Rinehart and Grace Lutheran's pastor Rev. Lura Groen have signed on to a statement expressing deep concern over Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s use of his office to call for a prayer rally at Reliant Stadium on August 6 and to urge all Americans to pray and fast on that day, “like Jesus did.”

The statement, signed by Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran leaders, among others, emphasizes that the governor’s participation in a prayer rally which is “not open to all faiths” constitutes “an official message of endorsement of one faith over all others, thereby sending an official message of religious exclusion and preference to all Texans who do not share that faith.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has previously voiced concerns about the governor’s participation in the rally as a troubling disregard for the Constitutional separation of church and state and for the diversity of his constituency, drafted the statement and spearheaded the effort to gather signatures. The League did so after hearing from many faith leaders in the Houston community similarly concerned by the governor’s call for Americans and other governors from across the country to participate in “The Response” prayer rally.

“We strongly believe this statement, signed by so many of our most respected religious and community leaders, reflects the feelings of many Texans who are concerned that Governor Perry is overstepping his bounds in supporting an exclusionary sectarian religious event,” said Martin B. Cominsky, ADL Southwest Regional Director. “It is overwhelming that so many religious leaders from many different backgrounds agree that the governor’s decision to participate in this prayer rally is highly inappropriate and offensive.

While we may have our differences, one thing we can all agree on is that Houston’s greatest strength is its religious diversity, and that religious freedom is threatened when a government official promotes one religion over all others,” Mr. Cominsky added.

Many of those who signed the statement are participants in the ADL’s Coalition for Mutual Respect, a groundbreaking program that brings together Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders for interfaith dialogue and to work on issues of mutual concern.

The statement calls on elected leaders to practice their own religion as they choose, without seeking to impose their beliefs on others or using their official offices to divide citizens along religious lines.

“Governor Perry has a constitutional duty to treat all Texans equally regardless of race, religion or ethnicity,” the statement reads. “His official involvement with “The Response” at a minimum violates the spirit of that duty.”

The full text of the statement and a list of signatories is below.

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One of Houston’s greatest strengths is its religious diversity. As part of the Anti-Defamation League’s Coalition for Mutual Respect, we are keenly sensitive to the fact that Houstonians may pray differently or not pray at all. We cherish the fact that we can pray freely in our own way, because our founding fathers wisely envisioned and provided for a nation grounded in the principle of separation of church and state. This freedom from government imposed religion allows all religions to flourish in our democratic society. It is with this thought in mind that we express our concern that Governor Rick Perry has called for a full day of exclusionary prayer on August 6, 2011. This religious event is not open to all faiths, as its statement of beliefs does not represent religious diversity.

Governor Perry has a constitutional duty to treat all Texans equally regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. His official involvement with the Response at minimum violates the spirit of that duty. By his actions, Governor Perry is expressing an official message of endorsement of one faith over all others; thereby sending an official message of religious exclusion and preference to all Texans who do not share that faith. We believe our religious freedom is threatened when a government official promotes religion, especially one religion over all others. We urge our elected leaders, who have the privilege of representing us, to practice their own religion as they choose without seeking to impose their beliefs on others or using their official offices to divide citizens along religious lines. They should be role models for all Americans, and can be by honoring and respecting our constitutional freedoms.

Rabbi Annie Belford
The Rev. Dr. Guinn Blackwell-Eagleson, United Campus Ministry
Ghulam Bombaywala
Michael Y. Chou
Robert Coberly
Rev. Mike Cole
Dr. William J. Cork, Pastor, Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Rev. Dr. James S. Currie, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church
Rev. Helen P. DeLeon, Pastor in the Presbytery of New Covenant
Rabbi Gideon Estes, Congregation Or Ami
Rev. Dr. Nora Fitch
The Rev. Martha Frances, Retired Episcopal Priest
Rev. Bradley Fuerst, Houston Lutheran Campus Minister
Rabbi Dan Gordon
Rev. Lura N. Groen, Pastor, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rabbi Steve Gross
Rabbi Daniel Horwitz, J.B. Greenfield Chapel of Congregation Beth Yeshurun
The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Shaikh Omar Inshanally, Imam, Islamic Society of Greater Houston
Rev. Wayne Ivey, Taylor Lake Christian Church
Dr. Sulekh C. Jain, Past President, Federation of Jain Associations in North
America(JAINA), and President of Jain Society of Houston
Rabbi Samuel E. Karff, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth Israel
Dr. Basheer Khumawala, Islamic Society of Greater Houston
Dr. Stephen L. Klineberg, Rice University
Rabbi Shira Lander, Congregation B'nai Israel
Rev. William A. Lawson, Pastor Emeritus, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church
Rev. Karin Liebster, Associate Pastor, Christ the King Lutheran Church
Rabbi David Lyon, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel
Rabbi Mark J. Miller, President, Houston Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Steven Morgen
Rev. Dr. Robert G. Moore, Senior Pastor, Christ the King Lutheran Church
Rev. Dr. Laurey H. Murphy
R. Marcus Otterstad, Senior Pastor, House of Prayer Lutheran Church
Rev. John Howard Reed
Michael Rinehart, Bishop, TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America
Regina Rogers
The Rev. David A. Roschke, Senior Pastor, Salem Evangelical Lutheran
Church,
Rabbi David Rosen
Rev. Samuel Schaal, Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church
Rabbi Deborah Schloss
Rabbi Jack Segal
Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, President, Islamic Society of Greater Houston
J. Michael Solar
F. Herb Stalknecht, Retired United Methodist Pastor
Rabbi Seth Stander
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stein, Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rabbi Joshua S. Taub, D.D.
Pastor Ernie Turney, Senior Pastor, Bering Memorial United Methodist Church
Rabbi Roy Walter, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Emanu El
Pastor John Willmann
The Reverend Belinda C. Windham, D.Min. Pastor, New Hope Presbyterian
Church
Dr. Susan McPhail Wittjen, Former Moderator, New Covenant Presbytery
Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Emanu El
Rev. Rich Wolf, New Hope Lutheran Church
Rosie Zamora

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