AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage is supporting a call to make Aug. 6 a national day of prayer and fasting, a move hailed by Christian groups but assailed by organizations who believe the state shouldn’t promote one religion over another.
The governor signed the proclamation in early June, joining Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is presiding over a national event that will be held at Reliant Stadium in Houston on the same day.
The day-of-prayer proclamation was signed by LePage June 6 following Perry’s appeal in May to the nation’s other governors to support the event.
In the proclamation, LePage writes that a day of prayer is an opportunity for Mainers to “turn to God in humility for wisdom, mercy and direction” during “times of trouble.”
“According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene,” the site reads.
Perry’s event has spawned a federal lawsuit from a group composed of atheists and agnostics. The group argues that Perry’s day of prayer violates the constitutional ban on the government endorsing a specific religion.
Perry, an oft-rumored candidate for president, has also been criticized for using the event to garner political support from the evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party.
Other critics object to the American Family Association’s involvement. The AFA has made strong statements opposing homosexuality.
LePage, in the proclamation, cites quotes from former U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom at points of national crisis asked citizens to pray for America’s protection.
Not everyone is happy that LePage is supporting Perry’s event.
Alysia Melnick of the Maine Civil Liberties Union said religion flourishes in Maine and the nation because government doesn’t get involved.
“The governor should have faith that the people of Maine can make their own decisions about prayer, without the state’s approval or disapproval,” Melnick said.
Susan Bernard of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Portland said the organization supported LePage’s proclamation.