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Judge dismisses Texas prayer event lawsuit

Associated Press / July 29, 2011

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HOUSTON - A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to stop Governor Rick Perry of Texas from sponsoring a national day of Christian prayer and fasting, ruling yesterday that the group of atheists did not have legal standing to sue.

US District Judge Gray H. Miller said the Freedom From Religion Foundation argued against Perry’s involvement based merely on feelings of exclusion but did not show sufficient harm to merit the injunction they sought.

“The governor has done nothing more than invite others who are willing to do so to pray,’’ Miller said.

Rich Bolton, who argued for the group, said he was considering an appeal.

“I wonder if we had a Muslim governor what would happen if the whole state was called to a Muslim prayer,’’ said Kay Staley, one of five Texas residents named as plaintiffs in the suit.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation argued in the lawsuit that Perry’s involvement in the day of prayer and fasting would violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause. The event, which is called The Response, is scheduled for Aug. 6 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

A day earlier, Perry defended the event, comparing it to President Obama’s participation in the National Day of Prayer.

“My prayer is that the courts will find that the first amendment is still applicable to the governor no matter what they might be doing and that what we’ve done in the state of Texas or what we’ve done in the governor’s office is appropriate,’’ he said. “It’s no different than what George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or President Truman or President Obama have done.’’

The event is being sponsored by several evangelical Christian groups, including the American Family Association, which has been criticized by civil rights groups for promoting anti-homosexual and anti-Islamic positions on the roughly 200 radio stations it operates.

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