Are you kidding me? This is not acceptable. Furthermore, it’s unconstitutional and an attack on religion.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free excercise thereof.”
To register your complaint, contact:
Patricia Lyons, President
Senior Citizens, Inc
3025 Bull Street, Savannah GA 31405
Telephone: 912-236-0363 extension 115
“Preston Blackwelder proudly showed off a painting of his grandmother that had hung next to the front door of his Port Wentworth home.
She was the woman who led him to God, Blackwelder said Friday.
And with that firm religious footing, Blackwelder said, it would be preposterous to stop praying before meals at Port Wentworth’s Ed Young Senior Citizens Center because of a federal guideline.
‘She would say pray anyway,’ Blackwelder said of his grandmother. ‘She’d say don’t listen.’
But 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.
Thus, on Thursday, the open prayer at the center was traded in for a moment of silence.
The dilemma is being hashed out by the Port Wentworth city attorney, said Glenn ‘Pig’ Jones, the city’s mayor.
Tim Rutherford, Senior Citizens Inc. vice president, said some of his staff recently visited the center and noticed people praying shortly before lunch was served. Rutherford said his company provides meals like baked chicken, steak tips and rice and salads at a cost of about $6 a plate. Seniors taking the meals pay 55 cents and federal money foots the rest of the bill, Rutherford said.
‘We can’t scoff at their rules,’ he said of federal authorities. ‘It’s a part of the operational guidelines.’
Rutherford said the moment of silence was introduced to protect that funding. He said although the change may have been misinterpreted, perhaps his company could have done a better job selling it.
‘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.’
‘Can’t thank God’
Mayor Jones said he was outraged by the change and has promised to find a solution.
‘It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever did as mayor is to look at those people in the eyes and ask them to be patient with me and honor their God in a moment of silence until I can have a resolution to this,’ Jones said. ‘For me to look at their eyes and tell them they can’t thank God for their food, it’s unheard of – I can’t take it.’
Jones said he enlisted the help of Port Wentworth’s city attorney and scheduled a Tuesday morning meeting with Senior Citizens Inc. to determine the best solution.
Jones added he also flirted with the idea of ending a contract the city has with Senior Citizens Inc.
‘Like one lady said, ‘You can stop me from speaking, but you can’t stop me from praying what’s in my heart,’‘ he said. ‘But the best answer right now is that we’re trying to get the best information possible and legal council is looking at what would happen if we continued to pray.’
Invasion of privacy
Blackwelder said the center’s already fragile visitors have been rattled.
Along with threatening the center’s amenities, the decision has frightened the people who use it.
‘Their security consciousness is prevalent anyway,’ he said. ‘You’re threatening their security with their meals and the place where they spend the majority of the day.
‘This is, in my view, an unnecessary intrusion into the private lives of individuals. It’s a bad place to draw a line in the sand.”