Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is widely expected to announce a presidential campaign later this month, plans to attend at a prayer and fasting event called "The Response" on Saturday despite criticism that the event inappropriately mixes religion and politics.
Perry's representatives said the governor will be at the event for the entire, seven-hour duration.
Perry himself has played down his involvement, saying at one point, "I may be ushering, for all I know."
Perry has suffered a spate of bad press tied to The Response over both the nature of what some are calling an evangelical revival and the fact that organizers have said that fewer than 10,000 people have registered for the event, which is to be held at Houston's 71,500 capacity Reliant Stadium. Response Spokesman Eric Bearse told Hotsheet Thursday that "More than 8,000 have signed up, but we expect a lot more than that."
Groups like the Anti-Defamation League have criticized Perry for holding the event, which the ADL said "violates the spirit" of his constitutional duty to treat all Texans equally. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Church and State told Hotsheet that Perry is "confused," saying "He is the governor of Texas - he is not an official preacher or prayer leader."
, including the American Family Association, which is providing financial backing; AFA representatives have called for a ban on Muslim immigrants and for gay men and women to "be disqualified from public office." Others tied to the event have called for the government to be placed under Christian control and suggested Oprah Winfrey is setting the stage for the antichrist.
Some have suggested the event could link Perry to the religious fringes in a way that could hurt him both in states like New Hampshire and with the full electorate if he wins the GOP nomination, and have speculated that Perry may thus play down his involvement in the event he initiated. But Bearse, the spokesman for The Response, said that is not the case.
Perry, he said, is "fully embracing the event, and there is no truth whatsoever to that false spin."
The Response is the only public event for Perry this week, according to his office. On August 12, he travels to Alabama for the state GOP dinner, and he plans to be in South Carolina on the 13th - the day of the Iowa straw poll.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Perry was confirmed to speak at "The Response." His aides say a final decision has not been made.