Excuses, Excuses: The Polite Regrets of Governors Bailing on Perry’s Prayer Rally

The Houston Chronicle’s Texas on the Potomac blog takes an accounting of the RSVPs to Gov. Rick Perry’s upcoming prayer rally, and so far, he has only one taker, and it’s not surprising: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

What’s possibly more interesting than the fact that 48 sitting governors have better things to do on a Saturday in August than spend it in a sports stadium in Houston praying away America’s sins, is that none of them actually say that. None of them offer any sort of criticism of the event in their oh-so-very polite responses to Perry’s invitation.

You would think that perhaps one would say something like, “while I’m a big praying dude myself, I prefer doing it in a more quiet, contemplative way, perhaps in my own house of worship or home. Not at a political event in a basketball arena.”

Instead of making a political statement, though, it looks more like many of the governors who have responded to Texas on the Potomac’s inquiries are following Emily Post. Although I couldn’t find any etiquette rules on how to respond to an invitation to a prayer rally in a basketball arena by a sitting governor thought to be running for president with a collection of right-wing preachers with partisan theopolitical agendas, here’s Post (to be sure, circa 1922), on sending your regrets to other sorts of events, like balls, dances, or wedding breakfasts:

The formula for regret:

Mr. Clubwin Doe

regrets extremely that a previous engagement
prevents his accepting
Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s
kind invitation for dinner
on Monday the tenth of December

Reading Texas on the Potomac’s rundown of gubernatorial RSVPs, many of them are in the vein of sending regrets to a ball. Sure, one would expect Perry’s fellow Republicans or  Christian nation mythologists to be polite (Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Maine’s Paul LePage, Idaho’s Butch Otter, to name a few, cite “scheduling conflicts,” a politician’s version of “regrets extremely that a previous engagement prevents his accepting”). And others have just said no with no further comment, or didn’t respond to Texas on the Potomac’s inquiries. But here’s Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, according to Texas on the Potomac: “Houston is ‘just not on travel schedule’ and he has a family wedding that day, his office said.” That’s why? Really?

Not one governor has had the guts to say anything about the impropriety of a sitting governor hosting a sectarian prayer event where conversion to Christianity is prayed for, or that posits that America’s problems (as defined by them) can be fixed by 70,000 people getting on their knees in a sports stadium, courtesy of an organization that has boycotted the company that makes American Girl dolls because it supports “a pro-abortion, pro-lesbian advocacy group,” or Hallmark after it started producing same-sex marriage greeting cards, and which employs a radio host who compares gay people to Nazis and advocates for the deportation of Muslims. Indeed several Democratic governors have offered the excuse that they have hosted or are planning their own days of prayer (Minnesota’s Mark Dayton, New Hampshire’s John Lynch, and Washington’s Christin Gregoire), because official praying events now appear to be a prerequisite for high office.

Still, though, Perry’s very short gubernatorial guest list is a sign of his event’s, uh, shall we say politely, problematic nature. It’s just too bad that no governor seems willing to come right out and say that.

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