With Rick Perry likely to enter the Republican presidential race within days or weeks, thousands of fundamentalist Christians cheered the Texas governor Saturday at a stadium prayer rally that appeared to boost his standing with religious conservatives, a key GOP voting bloc.
Perry organized the daylong service of prayer and fasting, featuring appearances by prominent figures on the Christian right. Stadium officials said the crowd exceeded 30,000, far more than any event staged by the announced Republican presidential contenders.
"Like all of you, I love this country deeply," said Perry, greeted by a roar of approval when he walked unannounced onto the stage inside Houston's air-conditioned Reliant Stadium. "Indeed, the only thing you love more is the living Christ."
Critics, some of whom went to court in a futile effort to block the event, lamented what they saw as an improper commingling of religion and government. A single-engine plane, circling overhead, greeted early arrivals with a banner that read "Gov: Keep state/church separate."
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