Believe it or not, a group of senior citizens was told they could not pray before their meals.
In what some have a called a “ridiculous decision”, Georgia Senior Citizens, Inc. said because the organization receives federal money “it violates federal rules” to pray before meals.
FOX Nation is reporting today that the senior citizens can once again pray before their meals.
Here is the quote given to FOX Nation.
“Senior Citizens, Inc. has always prided itself on the services it has been able to provide the seniors of the low country. Part of that service is an adherence to Federal and State regulations that have made funding possible so more seniors can be served.
Over our years of service, we have been instructed, as recently as two weeks ago, by the state regulatory agency that verbal prayer was not allowed at any senior center. We are so pleased to say that we have been contacted a few minutes ago by the new Director of Aging clarifying the regulation and reversing the position of new verbal prayer.
As an organization, we feel that spirituality is an important and necessary part of a full life and we are thankful that this interpretation of the regulation makes prayer possible in all of its forms.”
Here is the original story from the Associate Press.
PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (AP) — 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 near Savannah 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.
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.
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."
Mayor Jones said he was outraged by the change and has promised to find a solution.
"It was one of the hardest things I ever did as mayor is to look 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 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."
Blackwelder said the center's already fragile visitors have been rattled.
"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."
I would like to hear your thoughts on this story. Is it a violation of federal law or another attack on our religious liberties?
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Neil Middleton <><
WYMT Mountain News
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