LePage says he’s keeping National Day of Prayer private

Posted Aug. 06, 2011, at 5:27 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage announced last month that he was supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s national day of prayer and fasting.

But LePage is neither attending Saturday’s event at Houston’s Reliant Stadium nor holding any public gatherings here in Maine.

“The governor just thinks tomorrow should be a time of reflection and prayer,” said Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for LePage. “He had no plans to attend Gov. Perry’s event.”

In June, the governor signed a proclamation after Perry’s appeal in May to the nation’s other governors to support the event. LePage is featured on the organizer’s website, theresponseusa.com, which describes the gathering as a chance to heal the country’s political, financial and moral wounds.

“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.

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.”

LePage, like Perry, has taken some heat for backing an event that critics say promotes one religion over another. While Perry says his Day of Prayer is nondenominational, it’s organized by the American Family Association, an evangelical Christian group that has made strong statements opposing homosexuality and other religions.

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, also has been criticized for using the event to garner political support from the evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party.

The LePage administration has said the governor supports the event, but that it shouldn’t be viewed as an endorsement of Perry.

Nonetheless, some groups said it was inappropriate for LePage to back the event. The Maine Civil Liberties Union said religion flourishes in Maine and the nation because government doesn’t get involved.

Sue Bernard of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Portland said the organization supported LePage’s proclamation.

The governor attached a copy of his proclamation to his weekly Saturday radio address. He also references the event in his remarks, but makes no reference to a specific religion.

“This is a time of reflection,” the governor said. “A time to pray for our families, give thanks to our parents and hug our children. It is a time to think about the values in which our great Nation was built upon and reflect on the direction our Nation is headed in.”

He added, “On August 6th, I encourage us also to all pray for our troops who tirelessly fight in the defense of our country. Family and our freedoms should never be taken for granted. We are a nation that has hit a troubling era and praying for the strength to do what is right for our people is the right thing to do.”

In 1952, Congress enacted a law that allowed for the annual observance of a National Day of Prayer. That event is held each May.

Maine’s first lady, Ann LePage, honored the National Day of Prayer with a small gathering on the steps of the State House.

Bennett said the governor declined to say whether he and the LePage family planned to fast or pray Saturday.

“The governor is very private about his faith,” Bennett said.

She added that the governor understands that religion is a private issue for others and stressed that he wasn’t ordering Mainers to pray or fast Saturday.

To see more from the Sun Journal, visit sunjournal.com.

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