Counter-rally addresses Perry’s exclusion of non-Christians

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A protestor who chose not to be named waits outside of Victory Grill on 11th Street to begin marching with other protestors to the Capitol in response to, what they believe, Rick Perry’s shortcomings as governor of Texas and his wish to run for president.

Photo Credit: Chase Martinez | Daily Texan Staff

Gov. Rick Perry’s “The Response” proved less controversial than expected, but at the state Capitol, protesters drove home a radical message — ‘Rick Perry: Bad for Texas, worse for our nation.’

Hosted by the Travis County Democratic Party, 300 people protested the exclusion of non-Christians from the Houston rally and the governor’s potential presidential ambitions. The event started with a march to the Capitol, then included a rally featuring diverse religious leaders, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, state reps. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, and Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

“If you think about it, since Rick Perry has been governor, haven’t we all had more reason to pray more than ever in recent history?” Doggett asked at the opening of his speech.

Doggett said under Perry, the teen pregnancy rate in Texas has become one of the highest in the nation, the state has ranked 36th in the nation for high school graduation rates and has almost 4 million Texans without high school diplomas.

With nearly $4 billion cut from public school education during this past legislative session, rally leaders said Texas’ education ranking will continue to drop, possibly ending in dead last.

“We need to tell Perry ‘Don’t mess with our Texas schools,’” Doggett said. “Perry wants to do to America what he’s done to Texas, and I’m announcing today that if Perry enters this race for presidency, I will make it my mission to spread the message ‘America, don’t let Perry mess with you like he has messed with Texas.’”

Rabbi Kerry Baker said he was upset Perry’s prayer day was not inclusive of all religions.

“There are no Catholics, Buddhists or Muslims [at the Prayer day],” Baker said. “Even among Christians, there is only a narrow percentage at the event. All religions need to be included because we are all a part of the public domain.”

Baker said most Christians that participated in the Houston rally were ultra-conservative theologians who advocate extremely radical positions that do not appeal to the majority of Christians.

While there were no formal prayers said at the counter-rally, Dukes asked the audience to pray for those impacted by Perry-approved statewide budget cuts, including children who may have reduced educational opportunities and elderly Texans who may be unable to pay for care.

“Don’t be fooled by slick Rick. He only showed up when the cameras were rolling, and not when it mattered,” Dukes said.

Much of the controversy around Perry’s prayer day stemmed from the religious-political organization that hosted it, the American Family Association.

The Rev. Eliza Galaher, a gay clergy member for the Wildflower Church in Austin, said the organization is against homosexuality and both Perry and the organization unashamedly perpetuate systems of injustice and oppression against both the GLBT community and minorities alike.

“Perry is a part of a system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, where the employers get greedier and the immigrants working for them get deported,” Galaher said in a speech. “The system we live in is killing young kids that are relentlessly bullied and take their own lives. It is killing Latinos who are seeking a better life, but die of thirst in the desert. It is killing kindness, compassion, and our faith in the idea that a loving community is possible.”

Printed on Monday, August 8th, 2011 as: Protest rally challenges 'The Response'