Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Response Rally Wasn't the Only Gathering in Texas this Weekend

Think the Response rally went unnoticed by progressives and moderates in Texas? Think again! Multiple events took place in Texas this weekend to take a stand against Gov. Rick Perry and the groups affiliated with the Response. Supporters of church-state separation, LGBT rights, and a variety of other issues organized counter-rallies on August 5th and 6th.

First, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Texas ACLU co-sponsored an alternative event to the Response rally, entitled "Family, Faith, and Freedom." Held in Houston's Mount Ararat Baptist Church on August 5th, the event was intended to reaffirm the importance of church-state separation on the eve of the Response. According to ABC News, the "Family, Faith, and Freedom" rally featured speakers from various denominations who criticized the Response for excluding non-Christians and affiliating with radical voices.

Second, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which criticized Gov. Perry's partnership with the American Family Association for the Response, also organized a counter-rally. Held in Houston's Tranquility Park on August 5th, the rally condemned the homophobia of several Response supporters and called for LGBT inclusion. Speakers at the gathering included regional LGBT advocates and LGBT-affirming religious leaders. For example, at the 3:25 mark of the video below, Houston GLBT Political Caucus president Noel Freeman condemned the American Family Association for its homophobic rhetoric. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

"The American Family Association has gained its notoriety by attacking out community, by attacking Muslims, by attacking people of other faiths. We will not stand for that. The Westboro Baptist Church is coming here as well. These are two of the most vile groups recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups, for their constant stream of lies and their hatred of people in our community ... The American Family Association calls us Nazis and says we were responsible for the Holocaust. They tell us we should spend the rest of our lives in prison, that people living with HIV and AIDS should be eradicated from our society. Houston is a progressive city, one of the most progressive cities in the south. And they want to say that our community shouldn't even be able to hold elected office. Well you know who works in that building right there? The first openly lesbian mayor of a major city in America."

Finally, the Travis County Democratic Party hosted a rally entitled "Rick Perry: Bad for Texas, Worse for Our Nation" today at the state capital in Austin, TX. Co-sponsored by Texans for Obama, the Texas Democratic Party, and the National Gray Panthers, among other groups, the rally was intended to bring attention to Gov. Rick Perry's record on education, the environment, and other important issues.

Rev. Jim Rigby of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church spoke at the rally, looking askance at the type of Christianity promoted by Gov. Perry and the Response Rally. At the 0:44 mark of the video below, he had this to say. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)
"Rick Perry is having a prayer event today in Houston. A lot of us would not be welcome there. That's understood. But there's something very ironic about it to me. Rick Perry is saying that we need to bring Texas to its knees. I think he's doing a great job of that. We are becoming first in almost every misery index you can find. That's the wrong direction. But the Christianity they're going to be talking about would not like me very much. The idea that Jesus doesn't want us to feed the hungry, the idea that Jesus doesn't want us to clothe the naked, the idea that Jesus does not want us to take care of the weakest among us is very strange. And when somebody looks at the Beatitudes and sees in that a call to flat-tax, you know you're not really worshipping Jesus, you're worshipping Newt Gingrich in sandals and a beard."

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