Jewish community responds to Perry rally | Believe It or Not | a Chron.com blog

Jewish community responds to Perry rally

Houston’s Jewish Community Center will host an event Tuesday focused on First Amendment freedoms, an effort to offer legal context to Gov. Rick Perry’s upcoming Christian prayer rally.

The Anti-Defamation League, the event’s organizer and an activist group against anti-Semitism and discrimination, has called Perry’s rally “misguided and inappropriate” for isolating non-Christians in his constituency and tangling his personal faith with his political office.

“The governor’s message is dividing Texans along religious lines. Our goal is to educate the community why a union between government and religion is harmful to both,” said Martin B. Cominsky, ADL regional director. “It’s a reminder to all people, to Jews, to Muslims, to everyone, how risky this slope is.”

Houston attorney David Furlow will address the legal precedence against religious establishment in a talk called “Roger Williams, Thomas Jefferson and the Origins of First Amendment Religious Freedoms.”

Tuesday’s talk, free and open to the public, is being held in partnership with Americans United For the Separation for Church and State and the Texas Freedom Network.

The Jewish community is one segment of a broad group of Texans who are uncomfortable with Perry’s involvement with the event and its sponsor, the American Family Association. They’ve joined with Muslims, atheists, progressive Christians and others in voicing their opposition.

“I’m not sure we’ve all come together in a physical way, but we all share concern over it,” Cominsky said.

The National Association of Jewish Legislators released a statement expressing “disappointment and shock” over Perry’s plans for the event, and Austin’s State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, a Jewish lawmaker, has also criticized the governor.

“This type of sectarian event can only serve to put people into religious boxes that decrease the chances that there will ever be public acceptance of different groups and faiths,” he said.

The organizers of Faith, Family and Freedom—an event taking place on the Friday before Perry’s rally at Reliant Stadium—say they have invited Jewish leaders to join them for interfaith activities being held before Shabbat that day.

Organizers of The Response rally say they expected the criticism and affirm the rights of people to oppose, speak against or protest the event.

The ADL’s community briefing on the First Amendment will run from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, at the JCC, 5601 S. Braeswood. Those interested in attending should RSVP to southwest@adl.org.

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