One day from kickoff, critics are increasingly piling on Texas Gov. Rick Perry for a big NFL stadium prayer rally set for Saturday in Houston.
And to think that much of the planning for an event that has stirred so much national controversy came out of what used to be an old strip center on Red Bridge Road in south Kansas City.
The rally is called The Response. A spin through its website indicates heavy influence by the International House of Prayer, which draws thousands of young people from all over the world to Kansas City.
At least four IHOP leaders play key roles, including Luis Cataldo, an intercessory missionary, who is listed on the website as the director of Perrys event. Cataldos wife, Jill, is listed as the program director.
More than 50 religious and community leaders in Houston this week signed a statement drafted by the Anti-Defamation League taking Perry to task for his involvement in the event. Critics say it is exclusively Christian, blurs church/state separation and features a lineup of conservative speakers known for stances against gay marriage and abortion rights.
Two ADL leaders wrote in the Houston Chronicle that if Perry wants to pray in private or in church, thats fine, but he shouldnt be asking his constituents to pray along with him in a country that upholds their rights not to pray his way, or not to pray at all.
Secular nonsense, supporters of the rally reply. They argue that the event is needed because the countrys economic woes, terrorism, cultural challenges and natural disasters are at historic crisis levels and that Jesus is needed for guidance.
Honorary chairman James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said on his website that the rally is an opportunity for the country to gather and pray for a hurting nation: We believe that America is in crisis not just politically, financially or morally, but because our nation has not honored God in its successes or humbly called on Him in its struggles.
In his video invitation, Perry, standing in front of an American flag, says: There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.
IHOP leaders did not comment for this story.
But Eric Bearse, spokesman for the event and a former Perry speechwriter, said Luis Cataldo has been particularly instrumental in planning the event.
Mike Bickle, head of IHOP, whose brand of Christianity relies heavily on the Book of Revelation and a sense of urgency that the Rapture is near, is pictured on the website as a national endorser.
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