Thousands of people are expected to be on LSU’s campus Saturday for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally — either to support it or in protest of it.
Jindal, who is considering a run for president in 2016 and is scheduled to speak three times at the prayer rally, will be joined at the event by several conservative Christian activists, including Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd; former SBC President Fred Luter; Lisa Crump, of the National Day of Prayer; Louisiana Family Forum director Gene Mills; and Lafayette-based pastor Jacob Aranza, who is best known for promoting a theory in the 1980s that rock ’n’ roll music contained hidden Satanic messages.
The event has been billed as a day of prayer, fasting and repentance, and Jindal has used his official state office to promote it. The governor also is missing out on other events he might ordinarily hit up.
Thousands of politicians, lobbyists and others have flocked to Washington, D.C., for the annual Washington Mardi Gras celebration this weekend, while at least eight other potential GOP 2016 presidential hopefuls are in Iowa for the first annual Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative precursor to the Iowa caucuses.
A key sponsor of Jindal’s rally, the Mississippi-based American Family Association, has spurred controversy. AFA has been classified as a “hate group” because of its outspoken and often inflammatory takes on gay marriage and anti-gay laws in Uganda.
LSU students and others have planned a counter-event and protest that will feature LSU faculty and gay-rights advocates, among others.
Peter Jenkins, an LSU student who helped organize the counter-event, said he’s heard from people all across the state who plan to attend or want to help.
More than 800 people have confirmed they are attending via Facebook.
“Honestly, we’re gonna be delighted with however many people show up,” Jenkins said.
Doug Stringer, spokesman from the prayer rally, called “The Response,” said he didn’t know Friday how many people to expect at the event featuring Jindal, but they are expecting a crowd.
“Our belief is that it’s going to be full — maybe overflowing,” he said of LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center, which seats about 13,215 people.
The event will be streamed online for people to join in — even if they aren’t able to make it to Baton Rouge. Organizers have encouraged churches to host watch parties.
Stringer said he’s not bothered by the protest plans, and organizers are encouraging attendees not to engage with the protestors.
“At the end of the day, we all love our country,” he said. “We live in a great country that gives us freedom of speech.”
Jenkins said those organizing against the event are not anti-prayer and not anti-Christian.
“The whole time, we’ve been saying, we’re not against the prayer rally. We’re organizing against the AFA and their extremist rhetoric,” he said. “We’re organizing against this because these aren’t Louisiana values, American values or LSU values.”
On Thursday, the LSU Faculty Senate passed a resolution opposing the ideas of the AFA and endorsing the student-led activities. The resolution was sponsored by 125 faculty members — the most of any resolution in the Faculty Senate’s history.
Stringer, “The Response” spokesman, said there isn’t a schedule of speeches or anything like that for the day, though Jindal’s office announced late Friday three times he’s scheduled to speak at the prayer rally, plus an appearance at an anti-abortion event also taking place on campus. Jindal’s slated to lead a prayer at the start of the rally at 10 a.m., plus he’ll give a testimonial at 1:45 p.m. and lead a prayer again at 3 p.m.
Stringer said there will be no sermons or speeches, and nothing will be political.
“We need a heavenly intervention,” Stringer said. “This really is a time to honor the Lord and lift him up.”
He said the day will be about prayer focusing on the nation’s issues and rattled off several topics: foster care, human trafficking, criminal justice issues, abortion, racial tension.
When asked if the prayer topics would include homosexuality or gay marriage, Stringer said organizers believe in “traditional, Biblical marriage” and will be praying for the stability of the “family unit.”
“We will pray from a Biblical Christian view,” he said.