In the lead up to The Response in Houston back in August, organizers of the prayer rally and Rick Perry himself said the event had absolutely nothing to do with politics, even though the Texas Governor was actively preparing his presidential campaign at the time and announced his bid seven days after The Response.
Now, The Response is holding events in early Republican primary states, including one last month in Iowa and two prayer rallies in the next major GOP contests, South Carolina and Florida, and presidential candidate Rick Perry will be the special guest at the event in Greenville, which will take place just days before the primary vote:
Of course, having a presidential candidate who has made South Carolina the last stand of his campaign address the prayer event flies in the face of everything The Response organizers and Perry said about the “apolitical” nature of The Response. Perry’s office said in a statement publicizing The Response, which he headed along with the far-right American Family Association, that it was decidedly “apolitical”:
Gov. Rick Perry has proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 6th, as a Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God’s guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation. He has invited governors across the country to join him on Aug. 6th to participate in The Response, a non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer meeting hosted by the American Family Association at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Gov. Perry also urged fellow governors to issue similar proclamations encouraging their constituents to pray that day for unity and righteousness for our states, nation and mankind.
Don Wildmon, the founder of the AFA even claimed that “no political candidates will be speaking” at The Response, and organizer Doug Stringer, who called the September 11th attacks divine punishment, said he wouldn’t participate if it advanced anyone’s “political aspirations”:
“The Response is an open event. Anyone who wants to pray to Jesus for a nation in crisis is welcome to attend. Next, The Response is a prayer event, not a political event,” Wildmon says. “No political candidates will be speaking. Finally our critics say The Response violates the separation of church and state. The event will be held at a public stadium which has no connection to a religious body.”
“I didn’t want to officially be a part of The Response if there was any inkling that this would be anything political or that preaching pontificators would use this as an agenda for their individual denominations or political aspirations,” Stringer says. “But the governor said it’s going to stay pure. You can’t buy your way or influence your way to the platform.”
But Luis Cataldo of The Response and the International House of Prayer today told the Christian Post that he is bringing the prayer rally in primary states so the campaign can “reflect the values of the evangelical church”:
The Response Director Luis Cataldo acknowledged to The Christian Post that its schedule is intentionally aligned to that of the primaries. And The Response, he said, is definitely about influence.
“We are trying to influence the primary race in that the [current] moral climate, the legislation doesn’t reflect the values of the evangelical church,” Cataldo revealed.
“That was one of the things we most said at the beginning that we’re not political people, we’re praying people,” said Cataldo. But he added, “Prayer must be followed by action.”
Many of the original organizers of The Response had high hopes for Perry, with Lou Engle even saying that Perry’s presidential campaign announcement caused God to end the drought in Texas, but as his presidential bid has badly floundered, even Wildmon, the official host of The Response, has abandoned him.