Five Georgia Residents Sue to Block Extremist City-Sponsored Prayer Breakfast

January 3, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ATLANTA -- Acting on behalf of five East Point residents, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia today filed suit in federal court here against Mayor Patsy Joe Hilliard and the City of East Point for their unconstitutional sponsorship, promotion and funding of the "East Point Mayor's Annual Prayer Breakfast." 

"East Point's prayer breakfast is an extreme example of a city government choosing one religion over all others and making non-Protestant members of the community feel like outsiders in their own city," said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. "In a city as diverse as East Point, and at a time when our nation is struggling for unity, I would hope that the mayor would understand that this is a divisive thing to do." 

Each year's prayer breakfast has intertwined politics and religion under the cloak of city government sponsorship, the ACLU said in its complaint. Last year's prayer breakfast, for example, included a ""litany"" by the Mayor quoting "the words of King Solomon." The Mayor and other city officials asked Jesus Christ for his blessing, his "vision" and "wisdom." 

And for the last six years, employees of East Point have designed, prepared and printed the fliers to promote the official prayer breakfast, working on city time and using the city's own letterhead. City funds are used to help pay for the event, and private donations are made to the city itself. The mayor promotes the event on official stationery, and employs the city's director of finance to disburse funds through public accounts. 

""Numerous residents complained to the ACLU and we tried to work with the mayor to ensure that the prayer breakfast could move forward without government sponsorship or entanglement, but the mayor simply refused,"" said Gerry Weber, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. 

The ACLU's lawsuit seeks a court order to prevent this year's prayer breakfast from taking place. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Monday, January 7th at 3:00 p.m. ACLU cooperating attorneys Frank Derrickson and Ralph Goldberg represent the residents.

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