No Prayers at This Senior Center September 4, 2008

No Prayers at This Senior Center

Back in June, a senior citizen at the Verde Valley Senior Center in Arizona was getting annoyed by the constant Christianity thrown in her face — there were prayers and religious music playing before meals, for example.

She told the staff about her concerns, but it didn’t work. She told them this was illegal since the senior center was funded in part by the government. It didn’t work.

So the Freedom From Religion Foundation stepped in.

Summer intern Sarah Braasch alerted the Northern Arizona Council of Governments. The NACOG sent the senior center the following letter:

Wonderful, isn’t it?

Based on my interpretation of the FFRF article, it seems like the senior center stopped the prayers. Individuals can pray if they’d like (or play religious music if they’d like) but it won’t be sponsored by the center itself.

We know government-supported organizations cannot force a particular religious viewpoint on their members.

The problem is not just that it goes on in so many places.

The problem is that it all too often goes unreported.

If you see someone proselytizing inappropriately, let groups like the FFRF or Americans United for Separation of Church and State know. They can help you.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Kate

    So what happened????

  • Kate — I added a line in the posting, but I think the center stopped what they were doing.

  • I think it would be a good idea to put forward some reasons why Christians (or Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc) should support a distinct separation of church and state. The same law that prevents Christian proselytizing to the elderly during government sponsored meals also prevents the state mandating the form of religious worship. Freedom goes both ways.

    It is less adversarial but, I think, should go alongside this kind of legal action. The FFRF are acting to protect the centre as much as they are protecting the elderly. If they can understand this then they won’t think that it’s those evil atheists trying to oppress free religious worship.

  • TXatheist

    On a similar note I went to visit my Grandma at a private center and a service was going on so I walked by until I heard her start bashing UU folks. So I stopped, listened, waited for 20 minutes and then went over and introduced myself as a UU. She was beat red from embarrassment and I said it’s a shame she has to knock people like me.

  • Kate

    TXatheist – Just curious (I’m a UU myself), what was she saying about UUs? I never get why people criticize us.

  • cipher

    Kate, you know the answer to that one – it’s because you don’t think everyone else is going to hell. How monstrous of you!

  • SarahH

    I’m glad something was achieved here. Religion needs the most protection and separation from government in situations where people are the least able to defend their rights. Our youngest and oldest citizens – at elementary schools and senior centers – need those in power to make sure their beliefs are being treated with respect and equality.

  • Polly


    Since we’re on the topic of gov’t and religion, you might be interested in this (or you probably already know all about it)I just stumbled upon this, this very morning, from the TX GOP platform:

    Our policy is based on God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.”

    Check out page 12 – it talks about marriage and homosexuality. “God” is mentioned in the very first sentence.

    Can anyone doubt that the GOP is bent on establishing a theocracy?

  • ubi dubius

    Well, of course, they’re establishing a theocracy, but it will be a nice theocracy. At least that’s what my fundamentalist friend told me.

  • “Individuals can pray if they’d like (or play religious music if they’d like) but it won’t be sponsored by the center itself.”

    Completely agree with this. It’s the assumption that if the majority is Christian, then everyone should be subjected to the prayers. Glad to see some action works in favor of the non-religious.

  • TXatheist

    Thanks Polly, I truly believe deep down the Republican elite know religion is a political tool and that’s why they use it. The longer they have a large group to rally based on emotion the longer the GOP remains in power in TX. While not politics but similar when Enron went under an executive memo said if we can get the evangelicals to support us we can get out of this. I’ll print the TX GOP thing out and read later but I really appreciate it. 🙂

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