Seniors told they can't pray out loud at meals at Port Wentworth center

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PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. - 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 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."

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."

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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/08/10 - 02:25 pm
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I suspect 99% of those

I suspect 99% of those seniors could pay the $6 dollars easily. Why is our federal government giving away food based on age and not need? That's more of a scandal than the “no-pay, no-pray” zone.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 05/08/10 - 03:06 pm
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Shows what you know little

Shows what you know little lamb. I see you are working without tools---try living on a fixed social security income.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 05/08/10 - 03:05 pm
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Best answer is to disregard

Best answer is to disregard the rule and pray anyway. Are we in the United States or the old Soviet Union?

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 05/08/10 - 03:07 pm
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Wonder how Rutherford

Wonder how Rutherford interperts this as being separation of church and state, hmmm!

Augusta Gardener
943
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Augusta Gardener 05/08/10 - 03:15 pm
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No one is keeping these folks

No one is keeping these folks from praying, just asking them to keep it to their inner "closet". Isn't that what Jesus told people is the best way? I agree the company could have managed it much better, though.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 05/08/10 - 03:29 pm
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The man is called "Pig"

The man is called "Pig" AHAHAHAHAHAHA

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 05/08/10 - 03:31 pm
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Mayor Glenn "Pig"

Mayor Glenn "Pig" Jones.

AAAAAAHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

J.W.
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J.W. 05/08/10 - 03:47 pm
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Brought to you by your same

Brought to you by your same federal government who says that muslims employed by the government must be provided an opportunty and space to pray. Ever hear one of them pray quietly to themselves? I doubt it. Now on the other hand, how many of the seniors at the center voted for CHANGE. Well now you've got it.

bone1
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bone1 05/08/10 - 04:04 pm
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if a local gov't official

if a local gov't official sees reason to tell people not to speak because the federal gov't may be offended, our country has truly reached a low point. rather than a group prayer, any person in attendance should take the opportunity at any time to pray out loud to whichever deity they so choose. LL, normally i would agree with you about giving away any gov't services; in this case, though, i believe elderly citizens on a fixed income are a reasonable expenditure of my tax dollars.

rockymckee
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rockymckee 05/08/10 - 05:00 pm
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I say pray out loud anyway.

I say pray out loud anyway. The Federal Govt. works for us. We don't work for them. They can do it our way or hit the highway.

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 05/08/10 - 05:26 pm
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I agree Little Lamb. The

I agree Little Lamb. The government's waste of taxpayer money is atrocious. If greedy seniros can't live on their "fixed income from social security" then they should have kept working or saved more outside of the ponzi scheme of SS. It and Medicare are already $107 TRILLION unfunded and should be stopped tomorrow. Where is the personal responsibility?

If you want to pray aloud then do it on private property not on public property or on property with its services inexplicably subsidized by the taxpayer.

JW - you are correct about the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act that the idiotic Republican-led Congress passed in 2000 that requires many religious accommodations to be made on public property. Some school districts have extra recess time to accomodate Muslims so they can pray. It is pure abusrdity and it has yet to be challenged in front of the SCOTUS.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 05/08/10 - 05:20 pm
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Kids sent home from

Kids sent home from government schools for wearing the American flag, seniors threatened with starvation for praying, .... what a wonderful attitude the Marxist messiah has brought to our society. Is everybody getting happier?

walrus4ever
354
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walrus4ever 05/08/10 - 05:30 pm
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Id pray aloud for the time my

Id pray aloud for the time my 55 cents buys. These folks pay taxes that go towards the food they eat. I say speak as you wish.

walrus4ever
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walrus4ever 05/08/10 - 05:43 pm
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For those of you that

For those of you that subscribe to this nonsense lets consider getting God off the money, closing worship areas within military facilities, no Congressional prayer and certainly stopping vocal worship on Federal Reservations for Native Americans. And we must stop buying crosses for Arlington. What a petty crock of ......!

Taylor B
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Taylor B 05/08/10 - 05:57 pm
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Mixed feelings on this. If

Mixed feelings on this. If your eating off the government, you play by their rules. I give up my right to bear arms in a federal building. These people will give up their freedom of speech to be fed. This is how the government works. I'm not surprised at the story. I'm more surprised that the government is paying 6 bucks a meal. Whose brother got that contract?

And on a side note... Did anyone notice that the writer's name on this story? Sounds like a star wars name.

esmc68
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esmc68 05/08/10 - 06:21 pm
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Thank you for the food we are

Thank you for the food we are about to eat. I pray in Obamas name, Amen

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 05/08/10 - 06:26 pm
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The answer does not seem

The answer does not seem complicated here. You pray out loud and pay six bucks for the meal. You pray silently and pay 55 cents for the meal. That's not hard to explain to old people and I'm sure they'll make a choice that fits their budget.

dani
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dani 05/08/10 - 07:13 pm
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We can't take the chance of

We can't take the chance of offending an atheist or Muslim, now can WE?

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 05/08/10 - 07:30 pm
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Did the senior center allow

Did the senior center allow people to also get up and start cursing and condemning Christianity before the meal?

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 05/08/10 - 07:44 pm
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Civil disobedience---PRAY

Civil disobedience---PRAY OUTLOUD AS MUCH AS YOU WISH!!!!!

dichotomy
34332
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dichotomy 05/08/10 - 07:56 pm
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Now we have a government

Now we have a government telling us we can't pray because the food is subsidized. But yet we have state schools up north, who get lots of federal money, building special places for muslims to wash their feet BECAUSE IT IS PART OF THEIR RELIGION. Just how far Political Correct are you willing to go people? Stand up, get a backbone, and tell the federal government to kiss your behinds. Throw all of these bums out of office in November and lets put people in there who will defund Obamacare and all of the other agencies who create these stupid rules. No judge ever said you can't pray if you are eating a subsidized meal. It a stupid government bureaucrat from a stupid government agency. Throw them all out in November and start defunding supid government agencies and stupid government welfare programs and firing the people that run them.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 05/08/10 - 08:04 pm
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I guess next they'll tell

I guess next they'll tell people on welfare they can't pray at meals in their home because the money used to buy that food is from the government. Baron, I truly feel sorry for you when the time comes for you to grow old. You are not a nice person.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 05/08/10 - 09:03 pm
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If I'm old and can only pay

If I'm old and can only pay 55 cents to eat, I'd have given up on prayer.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 05/08/10 - 09:09 pm
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You live long enough under

You live long enough under the moron's rule, you might taylor, you just might!

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 05/08/10 - 09:56 pm
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What the hell ever happened

What the hell ever happened to free speech? The "brother" in the Whitehouse, may turn out to be the all-time "big brother."

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 05/08/10 - 10:06 pm
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If I make it to "old" I will

If I make it to "old" I will be surprised.

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 05/08/10 - 10:16 pm
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Taylor, live well, stop

Taylor, live well, stop smoking and drinking (if you smoke or drink), take a defensive drivers course, eat healthy, and you've got it made!

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 05/08/10 - 10:17 pm
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Baron says; "Did the senior

Baron says; "Did the senior center allow people to also get up and start cursing and condemning Christianity before the meal?"
____________________

You're a poor judge of people, Baron!

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 05/08/10 - 10:26 pm
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Sarge, I'm the type of person

Sarge, I'm the type of person that gets shot because I don't know when to shut up. Cancer aint going to kill me, lead poisoning might. Or elephant stampede.

Just My Opinion
5850
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Just My Opinion 05/09/10 - 08:15 am
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Tim Rutherford should be

Tim Rutherford should be ashamed of himself. See what trouble HE is bringing on to these people? If he would've just gone in, saw them praying, and kept his mouth shut, there'd be no problem here. These people are NOT causing any trouble at all, to no one. But Rutherford has proven that he is a brainwashed beurocrat who just has to go by the rules, even though those rules are mindless, insensitive, and in this case, ridiculous. I would bet $100 that if Rutherford had heard the seniors praying some sort of Muslim prayer, he wouldn't have said a thing because he would either be too scared to or he would have known that his higher-ups would've told him to be quiet for political reasons. I hope these seniors keep praying! And LL, I don't agree with you on the senior's meals being subsidized. I'd rather pay for THEM to be fed than for the fat-butt welfare mommas, and their absent "baby-daddys" out there.

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