Texas Governor Rick Perry's stadium prayer event, one organized and bankrolled by the antigay American Family Association, is expected to draw thousands of attendees and scores of protesters today in Houston.
The likely presidential candidate's event, The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis, is billed as a full day of "fasting and prayer, a gathering unto God as the body of Christ to worship, repent, and pray for America." (Click here for a webcast of the event.)
But Perry's outreach to his Evangelical base also includes a cast of antigay figures: Rev. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association -- a group that has called for the criminalization of homosexuality and recently praised the exclusion of the gay Republican group GoProud from the Conservative Political Action Conference because, according to AFA, of the "well-known danger that homosexual conduct poses to human health" -- serves on the leadership committee for Saturday's event. So does Jim Garlow, senior pastor of San Diego's Skyline Wesleyan Church, which has hosted the Exodus International ex-gay conference Love Won Out.
As a result, Saturday protests and alternative prayer events from gay-affirming churches and LGBT organizations abound, the Dallas Voice reports -- including the Houston GLBT Caucus, GetEqual, and the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston (click here for the Voice report).
In an interview with the New York Times, a Perry spokeswoman rebuffed criticism against the event, which had registered more than 8,000 people to attend by Friday morning. "Governor Perry isn't concerned with criticisms that have been made against the Response," spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said. "He believes it will be an important and impactful opportunity for all Americans of faith to pray for our nation's challenges -- that is what this event is about and that's where the governor's focus remains."
Via Twitter, members the Westboro Baptist Church also announced plans to protest today's event. "Lovely day for picket of @TexGov's 'Response' -- those who have 'a form of godliness but deny the power thereof,'" Megan Phelps tweeted Saturday morning.