From the Houston Chronicle:
The American Civil Liberties Union filed open-records requests Wednesday to determine how much public money will be spent on Texas Gov. Rick Perry's prayer event at Reliant Stadium on Aug. 6.
Dubbed "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis," and funded by the Mississippi-based American Family Association and other fundamentalist Christian organizations, the all-day event is expected to attract several thousand people. The ACLU of Texas has requested information from the governor's office, the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the city of Houston, as well as auditor's and fire marshal's offices.
"We are concerned that Governor Perry is using public office to endorse a sectarian religious event and to advance specific Christian beliefs," Lisa Graybill, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement. "We are seeking information on the degree to which state resources have been or will be used for the planning and promotion of this event and for state officials' participation in it."
Graybill said the ACLU wasn't seeking to prevent the event, but filed the request for the sake of transparency.
She added: "Governor Perry has said there have been no improprieties and that's fine, but the taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent."
Group paying the costs
Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for the governor, noted that the AFA was paying for costs of the event and said no taxpayer dollars were being used. "Of course, his security detail will travel with the governor as they do everywhere he goes," she said.
"Any time the ACLU is opposed to you, you must be doing something right," said Eric Bearse, a former Perry aide and speechwriter involved with organizing the day of prayer and fasting.
He said he couldn't estimate how much the event would cost but that the AFA was trying to raise between $1 million and $2 million. He said some 6,000 people have signed up for the free event.
The contract with Reliant Stadium, he said, included a provision to use the stadium's normal security provider, the Houston Police Department.
Foundation opposes rally
Event organizers said Wednesday that Perry's precise role in The Response, including whether he will speak, hasn't been determined.
HPD spokesman John Cannon said the department could not provide information about security costs until after the event.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has sued to halt the rally.
"Perry's actions … give official recognition to a devotional event, endorse religion, have no secular rationale and seek to encourage citizens to pray and non-Christians to convert to Christianity," the foundation contends.
Graybill said the only precedent she could think of that involved taxpayer dollars for a religious event was a lawsuit the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed last year against President Barack Obama, claiming that the federal statute establishing the National Day of Prayer violated the Constitution. A district judge in Wisconsin sided with the foundation, although the case is on appeal.