Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t merely welcome the hundreds of people at a religious rally in Charlotte on Saturday. He asked for their help to rid Americans – particularly veterans returning home from war – of drug and alcohol addictions.
“My plea is that the faith community has got to wake up and not just speak within a convention center, not just speak within your churches,” McCrory told the assembled at The Response: North Carolina, a rally of mostly evangelical Christians at the Charlotte Convention Center called to respond to what organizers called a “crisis in America.”
“You’ve got get out of your churches ... and go to the ERs. You’ve got to go to the vet centers, you’ve got to go to the homeless shelters ... to the county jails. We need your help because government cannot do this alone. God can do it, but you’ve got to give them another choice and that’s the way they’re going to beat this addiction.”
The event is the fourth such rally around the country – the others have been in Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina – at which governors have spoken. Some have drawn huge crowds: More than 44,000 packed a Houston football stadium.
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About 4,000 chairs were set up in the convention center’s 200,000-square foot trade show room on the bottom floor. Another 3,000 were readied in the next room if needed. By noon, only about 1,500 seats were filled – with more participants steadily trickling in.
Last month, McCrory complained that organizers of The Response: USA religious rallies used without his permission a photo of him in a full-page ad in The Observer with this invitation: “Come Join Me in a time of worship, prayer, fasting and repentance.”
His office said McCrory agreed to speak at the event, but didn’t give organizers the OK to invite people on his behalf. He was criticized by leaders of other religions for taking part in the event.
That didn’t stop the governor from making his impassioned plea for the faith community to get involved in fighting drug and alcohol abuse.
He talked about how his baby boomer generation “glorified” drug use.
“In my generation, we sadly said ‘it’s about us, it’s all about feeling good. There are no ramifications to anyone else,’” McCrory said. “And it was a big lie. That lie continues today and it’s destroying the family fabric of our society.”
The gathered came from across the Carolinas.
Some of the speakers like David Benham of Concord, who has implored Charlotte City Council to deny permits to Charlotte Pride organizers, took anti-abortion and anti-gay stances, blaming them for the country’s ills. Some in the crowd lay on the concrete floor in prayer, or stood with both arms raised, swaying with the religious music.
Veronica Evans drove from Raleigh because she feels Americans have strayed from the church.
“Until we make God our priority, then we will continue to have these problems,” Evans said. “We have compromised our faith. We have taken on the beliefs of other cultures and other nations. We’ve definitely removed ourselves from the values this nation was founded upon.”