The non-LGBT Response to ‘The Response’

A billboard truck paid for by the Freedom from Religion Foundation sits outside Reliant Stadium on Saturday during ‘The Response.’
Han Will and Katherine Godby from First Congregational Church of Fort Worth.

Houston’s Kirby Drive winds past the front entry to Reliant Stadium. At one point, just past the stadium, the road makes a slight curve. The main gate to the stadium’s parking lot is here, and the combination of Kirby Drive’s curve and the thoroughfare-like entrance gate creates a three-way intersection centered around a small concrete traffic island. On Saturday, this intersection became a carousel of non-LGBT groups protesting Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting, dubbed “The Response.”

Each corner was claimed by a different group that feels “The Response” violated values it holds dear. On one corner, the American Atheists — who objected to the response as state promotion of religion. On the next corner, the Freedom From Religion Foundation which, due to its strategic location, was positioned to yell at idling cars waiting for entrance to the stadium. On the last corner, a group of Lyndon LaRouche supporters, who toted a 6-foot poster of President Barack Obama portrayed as Hitler. Finally, cordoned on the concrete island by crowd-control fencing: Westboro Baptist Church. Positioned at the axis of discontent, WBC managed to draw the ire of all the other groups, and every attendee to “The Response” who drove by.

The most fervent shouting matches were between the Atheists and Westboro Baptist Church. Small cadres of Athiests would hurl taunts like “Your imaginary friend doesn’t scare me.”  Which would cause the protesters from WBC to launch into another round of what seemed to be their favorite song: “God Hates America,” set to the tune of “God Bless America.”

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Members of FW church heading to Houston to protest outside Perry’s prayer meeting

Fort Worth First Congregational Church, UCC

Another North Texas group has announced plans to travel to Houston next month to protest outside Gov. Rick Perry’s day-long prayerfest, and this time it’s a (not gay) church.

Members of Fort Worth First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ held a congregational meeting Sunday, July 10, and voted unanimously to endorse congregants’ plans to travel to Houston on Aug. 6 to protest outside Reliant Stadium where Perry and company will be holding “The Response.” Some 15 to 20 people from FW First Congregational Church are expected to go to Houston to protest, according to a press release from the church, along with “others from Christian churches throughout Texas.”

The press release says protesters will gather outside the stadium gates while folks are arriving for the prayer meeting, expressing their feelings about the event through posters, fliers and “silent witness.”

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last two months or so, you already know that Texas’ governor is teaming up with the decidedly anti-gay American Family Association, a right-wing conservative Christian organization that has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to present “The Response.” The purpose, Perry says, is to pray for our nation in crisis. (Others have suggested that perhaps it’s just a play for publicity as Perry gets ready to kick off his 2012 presidential bid.)

The folks at FW First Congregational are like most people speaking out against the event: They have no issue with the idea of holding a prayer meeting. What bothers them is that the governor is teaming up with the American Family Association to do so, especially since AFA is footing the bill for the prayer party.

“We certainly respect the governor’s call to pray and fast for the welfare of our country, but we strongly object to doing that in collusion with a group that engages in hate speech and, therefore, misrepresents the gospel,” said FWCC deacon and protest organizer Marvin Vann.

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