Gov. Perry hosts day of prayer in Houston

Joy, who did not want to give her last name, prays at The Response, a call to prayer for a nation in crisis, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, in Houston. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to attend the daylong prayer rally despite criticism that the event inappropriately mixes religion and politics. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

August 6, 2011 8:28:28 PM PDT
It was a mix of prayers and protests in Houston on Saturday as Gov. Rick Perry hosted a national day of prayer called The Response.

After weeks of controversy, criticism and concerns of underwhelming attendance, more than 30,000 people answered Perry's call to a day of Christian prayer Saturday.

"In these difficult times, Father, we pray for our President. May you impart your wisdom upon him that you would guard his family," Perry prayed at the event.

Aside from the prayer for the president and a prayer for the military, Perry stayed away from politics. He said he would. And while many outside saw this as a very political event, attendees inside didn't.

"I don't look at him as my governor Rick Perry. I look at him as my brother -- Brother Rick Perry," attendee Kendall Baker said.

There were controversial groups there, including some accused of holding anti-gay views.

There were pro-life prayers, but homosexuality never came up, and neither did the presidency.

"As we go out of this place, I hope you'll continue to pray for our nation and our leaders," Perry said.

Potentially days away from a White House run, the event was not without risk. It was not without major controversy, either.

"It took a lot of courage in this political environment for the governor to step up and call for this day of prayer," Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Church said. "I think it took a lot of courage for him to say, 'We're facing problems that are bigger than us.'"

Protestors lined the east side of Kirby Dr. most of the day, despite the scorching sun. At its height, maybe a hundred or so people were taking a stand against hate and a governor who they feel has overstepped his authority.

Daniel Cates was among the protestors.

"It's extraordinarily exclusionary. As a Christian, I'm appalled that my Jewish brothers and sisters, my and Muslim brothers and sisters were not invited to partake in something that should be about peace and love and bringing this nation together," Cates said.

Some protested because one of the primary sponsors of the prayer rally was the American Family Association -- a group criticized by civil rights groups for anti-homosexual and other defamatory statements.

Others accuse Perry of using his office and this event for personal gain.

"I'm offended by the fact that my governor is using a prayer event in order to run for president," Jesse Handy said.

Some of those driving by shot thumbs-up to protestors. Others made other hand gestures.

Strangers brought water as a sign of solidarity, and we found that not all church leaders were inside.

Among the protestors was a pastor -- Dan Deleon from College Station.

"The governor could probably be doing a lot more good governing the state of Texas instead of trying to put together prayer rallies," Deleon said.

Perry posted a thank-you to supporters on his Twitter account late Saturday.

"Made it home from Houston," he tweeted. "Thanks to all who made today a resounding success. The atmosphere was awesome. Proud to have been involved!!"

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