No, You Can’t Have a Formal Prayer Before the Meal May 12, 2010

No, You Can’t Have a Formal Prayer Before the Meal

Senior citizens at the Ed Young Senior Citizens Center near Savannah, Georgia receive reduced-price meals partly paid for with federal money.

Because of that, they’re being told they can’t pray before meals:

… Senior Citizens Inc. officials said Friday the meals they are contracted by the city to provide to Ed Young visitors are mostly covered with federal money, which ushers in the burden of separating church and state.

On Thursday, the usual open prayer before meals at the center was traded in for a moment of silence.

The dilemma is being hashed out by the Port Wentworth city attorney, said Mayor Glenn “Pig” Jones.

First of all… yes, I know. That’s his name.

Secondly, what is so hard about this?

If the seniors want to pray before a meal, fine. Let them pray. No one has to lead it. You don’t need to block off special time for then. You don’t need a moment of silence, either. Just let them pray. Or not. Whatever they want.

This is not that complicated.

They’re jumping from one side (organized prayer) to the other (“NO PRAYER FOR YOU!”) and ignoring the fact that there is a perfectly fine middle ground.

Actually, the company providing the food insists they never told the seniors they can’t pray:

“It’s interpreted that we’re telling people that they can’t pray, but we aren’t saying that,” he said. “We’re asking them to pray to themselves. Have that moment of silence.”

So really, it’s the mayor and a few seniors pretending to be victims. They’re not. No one is taking their right to pray away from them.

Which means former State Senator Eric Johnson and Piggy Jones are full of shit when they say the following:

“I told them they’re not fighting this alone,” Johnson, a Republican, told FoxNews.com. “To heck with the federal government — we can’t stop people from free practice of their faith.”

“This country means a lot to me, but the part that I don’t respect is it telling me I cannot pray over my meal,” Jones said. “I can’t accept and look them 65- and 70-year-olds in the eyes and tell them they cannot pray and bless their meals.”

Like I said, it’s not a complicated case. No one is forcing the seniors to not pray… but I guess when you need to get the attention of the electorate, you can stir up whatever fake controversy you want.

(Thanks to Drake for the link!)


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  • Vivian

    My Mormon friends pray before a meal at school or even out at a restaurant. I never stop them, but I don’t join in. These adults can do the same. You’re right, it really isn’t complicated.

  • chatterbox

    What’s sad about this is that apparently they can’t think for themselves. Oh Noes! Someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about told me X, so now I can’t Y!

  • PrimeNumbers

    Now they’re manufacturing fake persecution! Do they not feel holy enough unless they feel someone is after them?

    This is ludicrous – nobody is stopping individuals praying ever!

  • I’m more annoyed that a former Senator said, “..I can’t accept and look them 65- and 70-year-olds in the eyes…”

    I’m going to go pray now…for the English language.

  • Joanna

    I agree with PrimeNumbers’ comment. The right to pray is an individual preference and the issue here is not to keep the elderly from privately saying prayers over meals. When federal funds provide services, there cannot be the perception of mandatory religious behavior occurring before receiving the public service! It would be like the Red Cross encouraging prayer before people could receive disaster aid. Nobody is being persecuted here and it’s just one more way Christians are twisting the intent of the action proposed and bad-mouthing the federal government.

  • Claudia

    It never ceases to amaze me how many Christians have the capacity to have crushing majorities and advantages in the US and still manage to see themselves as the persecuted victims.

    I mean because what percentage of the city council in Savannah Georgia is Christian? What about the mayor? What about the state rep? Senator? Governor? State Attorney General? Dog catcher? You poor persecuted souls…./sarcasm

  • Parse

    I’m not that surprised by the reaction of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jones. For some people, a prayer just doesn’t count unless everybody else is forced to pray with you.

  • Rupert

    There have been a number of things along the lines of this in recent times. The national day of prayer controversy, the praying in schools incidents etc.

    The response I see from the fundies every time is that their rights to free speech and religious freedom are being taken away. The reality is, as we all know, that their intent is for their beliefs to become mandatory practices.

    Further to this, a debate has developed as to whether it is wise to provoke extremists once they have already ‘given notice’ that they will ‘take action’. I fear that if an attitude of ‘ok, we won’t do anything to upset you’ prevails, they will push further until the same level of threats will be applied if people don’t follow exactly the same practices as them.

    The mindset of these people, of various faiths, is such that they will accept nothing less than full adherence. We need to stand our ground now. And if these groups do commit more examples of what we have seen, hopefully the vast majority of people who currently pay it little mind, will start to respond.

  • Epistaxis

    I thought you were against moments of silence.

  • Alan McGowan

    This is classic Christian propaganda, they are the largest religion in the world but want you to believe they are still being crucified for their beliefs like in Roman times. This is why you should never take anything a Christian says to be fact, because they all believe in a lie and want you to believe it too.

  • Palaverer

    There’s a Biblical precedent for this. When King Darius signed the law that no one was to make a petition before anyone but him, Daniel could have continued to pray privately, but no he had to make a spectacle out of it. Some Xians just want to be a spectacle. Which is the exact opposite of how Jesus suggested they should pray.

  • Why do people think that saying you can not have a formal pray means you can’t say one for yourselfs. Pray you little heart out just don’t expect every other Tom, Dick and Harry to join in with you.

  • Ummm… didn’t Jesus say something about praying IN PRIVATE, and not making a public spectacle of it?

    And I second PrimeNumber’s comment (and those who followed up on it) — it’s manufactured persecution. It’s also a classic abuse tactic, for the abuser to take and twist the situation to make themselves look like the victim, “oh, poor persecuted me!”

  • Z

    For those of you non-Georgians, I should point out that Eric Johnson once draped himself in the confederate battle flag at a public event, and at some point said that Georgia should secede from the Union. Those are but two of his bat-s*** insane moments. He is also running for governor, and though I don’t think he has a chance to win, he has enough support for me to realize my home state isn’t as far beyond Mississippi as I’d hoped. As for the Port Wentworth mayor, I know him and he’a a decent fellow, but he is limited by having lived in Port Wentworth all his life. I don’t think he has a broad enough worldview to separate the things from the THINGS. Port Wentworth is and will remain a tiny, backward place. The entire city consists of one exit off I-95 with a dozen hotels and only half as many restaurants, and it only reached that level of development within the last decade.

    To recap:

    Eric Johnson = Schmuck
    Port Wentworth = It is what it is

  • stogoe

    my home state isn’t as far beyond Mississippi as I’d hoped

    I have relatives who live in Macon. I’m more than a little afraid of what they’d say if I asked them their opinion of Erik Erickson (the Macon city councilman who tried to disband the police because they had a union).

  • JohnM55

    I’ve always thought that the Irish tradition of saying thanks after the meal was more intellectually honest.

  • Ed

    Senior Citizens Inc. buckled to the pressure; they are once again being lead in prayer by staff or volunteers before each meal.

  • L.Long

    So it comes to a point where one of the old farts can’t stand up and announce ….
    Since your faith is so shallow that you can’t pray on your own, I will lead you in prayer.

  • Joanna

    Good one, Ed. Saying a prayer BEFORE eating the meal is a little presumptuous…and we are talking about institutional food here so I doubt they’d want to express too much gratitude for the gruel the place is probably serving. Save the prayer for AFTER, if it’s good enough to warrant a “thanks be to god”.

    “Father, who art in heaven, those were the best stewed prune and oatmeal pancakes I’ve ever eaten…thanks for providing my fiber and nourishment for the day. Now if you could just find it in your great all- powerful heart to supply bacon…crisp, lovely bacon, I promise to be nice to my crabby room-mate Edith.”

  • ladyliberty

    Mr. Friendly, you’re right when you say “This is not that complicated. They’re jumping from one side (organized prayer) to the other (“NO PRAYER FOR YOU!”) and ignoring the fact that there is a perfectly fine middle ground.” The staking of positions happens too often with prayer and abortion.

    I realize this is not a peer reviewed journal or old fashioned newspaper with three sources for everything but there are two things stated that are incorrect.

    Ms. Lagunatic (great handle) – it wasn’t Senator Johnson who butchered the English language. It was Mayor “Pig.”

    Mr. Z – you’re close to right on the flag. Mr. Johnson did not wrap himself in the confederate battle flag. It was the Georgia state flag which then Gov Zell Miller wanted to change in 1993 against the wishes of most Georgians. (But kudos because you actually reference the battle flag and obviously know the diff between the flags of the confederacy and the battle flag of the army.) The flag story has many chapters. Mr. Johnson is now vilified by some who think he didn’t promote the old Georgia flag enough. (We’ve had 3 flags since 1999)

    But you’re very wrong that Senator Johnson said Georgia “should” secede. He does support Georgia’s constitutional right to keep the federal government out of purely state issues – as protected by the 10th amendment – and he voted for a state resolution reinforcing the sentiments of the 10th amendment.

    Now Mr. Friendly Atheist – you seem like a good person to ask. Why is it people get so upset about the confederate battle flag being misused by the KKK and various boneheads that they then are offended by it’s presence anytime anywhere — but they are NOT equally offended by the Christian cross which was also misused (burned) by the KKK?

  • Rebecca

    Neitchz’s play, “The Madman” opens with a man running through the streets yelling, “God is dead! God is dead! And you murdered him!” Perhaps truer words have never been written. Man created God. Man killed God. Man resurrected God. Man murders Man and says God told him to. God never told me to kill anyone in his name, and he never told anyone else to either. Separation of Chruch and State in this country does not mean what what it says. What it means is you are free to worship long as “WE” approve of your intrepretation of our God. God is popular. God is politics, not rights. Forced participation does not equate to belief. It just makes people comfortable. It was never about God. Or rights. It sounded good. It was about power and control. Everyone should enforce their “rights” as citizens and not be forced to do something they don’t want. If you want to pray…Pray, but I have every right to not pray as well!