Organizers of The Response prayer rally that will be held next month and feature Gov. Bobby Jindal appear to be distancing the event from the controversial views of the event’s main sponsor, the American Family Association.
AFA’s involvement has sparked a backlash among students, faculty and others because of the group’s controversial positions against same-sex marriage and other gay rights. A prayer guide that was posted on the event’s website sought to tie Hurricane Katrina to an increase in support for gay marriage and abortion.
According to the key organizers of the event, AFA has no involvement in the programming or staging of the prayer rally.
“They have no input,” said Doug Stringer, a Texas-based faith leader who is serving as spokesman of the event.
Speaking to The Advocate on Friday, Stringer, founder of Somebody Cares and Turning Point Ministries International, stressed that the rally is a day of prayer and won’t be political, despite Jindal’s involvment.
“At the end of the day, everyone has the right to say what they want,” Stringer said. “From my perspective, there’s going to be no preachers pontificating and no politicians’ stump speeches.”
“It will not be about preachers or politicians using it as a platform for their own agenda,” he said.
He said he hasn’t yet finalized the list of speakers but he’s looking to mostly “nameless and faceless” people to lead the day’s events.
The American Family Association, which had talked to The Advocate earlier in the week, released a statement from AFA President Tim Wildmon Thursday similarly seeking to highlight prayer as the focus of the event.
“As our nation faces unprecedented crises—culturally, socially, and financially—‘The Response Louisiana’ is a call for worshippers in Louisiana and around the country to come together in unity for prayer and fasting. This event has one purpose and one purpose only: to approach God in humility and pray for his mercy, grace and guidance for our nation, which has lost its moral foundation and is suffering from a crisis of faith. It’s so encouraging to see Christians from across denominational and cultural backgrounds join in this time of prayer, and we truly believe God will be faithful to His Word. AFA is pleased to announce this event on our Louisiana radio stations in hopes that even more Christians will commit themselves to taking part in this event.”
The Advocate first reported, members of Jindal’s political team were involved in the organization of the prayer rally and the selection of LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center as the site for it.
Jindal is eyeing a run for president in 2016. The same event was held in Texas just before Gov. Rick Perry ran for president. But Stringer denied that the event has a whiff of politics.
He said politicians are a good avenue for bringing attention to the event and he would similarly partner with Democrats if asked.
“It’s not what you think it’s going to be,” Stringer said. “We need to see America turn back to the Lord. This is our response to a need to call to prayer.”
He said he knows some will oppose — and likely protest — the rally, but he believes they will benefit from the prayer that takes place.
“I can respect and honor those who may disagree with me, as long as they show respect and honor to us as well,” he said.