July 13th, 2011
09:00 PM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - A national organization focused on ensuring the separation of church and state challenged Wednesday the involvement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry in an upcoming evangelical Christian prayer rally.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking the Southern District Court of Texas in Houston to declare Perry's connection to a "Day of Prayer and Fasting" unconstitutional and stop any further participation on his part, the foundation said.
Perry's office says the governor still looks forward to the event.
"He believes it will serve as an important opportunity for Americans to gather together and pray to God," said Catherine Frazier, deputy press secretary of Perry's office. "The pending litigation does not affect plans for the prayer event to move forward as planned."
Perry asked that other governors make a similar proclamation and invite their constituents to join in the day, according to the announcement of the rally.
The lawsuit claims that the event sends a message that nonbelievers are "political outsiders" and that Perry's actions violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from making any law that favors one religion over another.
The foundation charges in its statement that Perry's connection to the event gives official recognition to a devotional event and tries to encourage people to pray and non-Christians to convert to Christianity.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based foundation calls itself the nation's largest atheist/agnostic membership group.
In June, Perry made the proclamation that August 6 would be a "Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation to seek God's guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation."
The meeting, hosted by the American Family Association at Reliant Stadium in Houston, will be "a non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer meeting," the governor's announcement said.
According to its website, the American Family Association's mission is to "inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad."
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