Anti-religion group questions Copenhaver prayer breakfasts

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A Wisconsin-based group that champions the separation of church and state is evaluating Augusta’s use of city resources to promote and plan monthly prayer breakfasts.

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Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver bows his head as the Rev. Gregory Young prays during the November 2006 prayer breakfast at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church. The Freedom from Reli­gion Foundation recently filed a request under the Geor­gia Open Records Act to inspect all city financial records and correspondence pertaining to the monthly breakfasts held this year.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver bows his head as the Rev. Gregory Young prays during the November 2006 prayer breakfast at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church. The Freedom from Reli­gion Foundation recently filed a request under the Geor­gia Open Records Act to inspect all city financial records and correspondence pertaining to the monthly breakfasts held this year.

The Freedom from Reli­gion Foundation recently filed a request under the Geor­gia Open Records Act to inspect all city financial records and correspondence pertaining to the monthly breakfasts held this year.

The breakfasts were established by Mayor Deke Copenhaver shortly after he took office in December 2005 as a way to promote unity, and according to the mayor, one has been held every month since.

According to the city’s response to the open-records request, which was obtained by The Chronicle, the only expense of taxpayer resources on this year’s prayer breakfasts took the form of e-mails sent by Copenhaver’s executive assistant, Karyn Nixon, to arrange the host churches and to invite and confirm guests, and in the city time spent by Nixon, Copenhaver and to a lesser extent Augusta Commission member Matt Aitken attending them.

According to the response, Nixon sent or received 128 e-mails between Nov. 29 and June 12 to arrange the host church for each breakfast and invite guests.

Starting in January, the breakfasts were held at Alders­gate United Methodist, Hud­son Memorial CME, St. Mary on the Hill, St. Paul Mis­sion­ary Baptist and First Bap­tist churches, with the church responsible for the breakfast, according to the response.

Asked to comment, Copenhaver said only that the foundation has filed no suit against the city and that the law department “has responded in the appropriate manner.”

City general counsel Andrew MacKenzie said his office was reviewing a large body of case law related to challenges to the establishment clause of the Constitution to prepare a response to concerns raised by the foundation in a letter accompanying the open-records request.

“The government’s not disputing (Nixon’s) involvement,” MacKenzie said.

Rebecca Markert, an attorney for the foundation, said she had just completed a review of Augusta’s response Friday and was drafting an additional letter to the city “pointing out inappropriate and problematic instances” she says she found.

The group, which has an Augusta complainant whom Markert would not identify, routinely sues governments around the country over their religious activities.

Markert said it was “problematic” that an elected official, Copenhaver, initiated the breakfasts and that Nixon spent “a lot of time” setting them up.

“As a city employee, she shouldn’t be putting together a religious event like this,” Markert said.

The nonprofit foundation’s members are mostly atheists and agnostics, and it has two distinct purposes: to promote the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and to educate the public on matters relating to “nontheism,” the absence of a belief in God, she said.

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iLove
626
Points
iLove 07/06/12 - 04:45 pm
1
0
Deny Him
Unpublished

Deny God and He will deny you.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 07/06/12 - 04:45 pm
0
0
Deny Him
Unpublished

Deny God and He will deny you.

seenitB4
90854
Points
seenitB4 07/06/12 - 04:51 pm
9
5
Say what!

Why would a Wisconsin group even care what Ga is doing??

carcraft
27035
Points
carcraft 07/06/12 - 04:54 pm
10
8
They are afraid that some

They are afraid that some place, some where, sombody may be praying and worshiping God, and we just can't have that can we?

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/06/12 - 05:06 pm
10
8
Aren't we so lucky

to have such wonderful people looking out for the best interests of Augustans!

(Sure would like to know what fine, upstanding good neighbor decided to bring us to the attention of these wonderful, helpful people.)

So, now Deke will have to get a volunteer to set up the prayer breakfast arrangements using his or their own private cell phone. I guess we all know it doesn't really fall under the job description of a city's mayor to try and bring all parts of the community together, especially not if it's for a meal or to pray for the community together.

What in the world were nation's founding fathers thinking! And Honest Abe! History books must be edited to delete or redact such old (but intolerable) standards for student memorization as the Gettysburg Address or Patrick Henry's stirring speech.

After all, O'bomber is now the Confounder in Chief.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 07/06/12 - 05:12 pm
8
7
The devil doing his dirty

The devil doing his dirty work. And so begins the rapid breakdown of our society.

KSL
134494
Points
KSL 07/06/12 - 05:14 pm
10
7
Busybodies!

Busybodies!

Tots
26085
Points
Tots 07/06/12 - 05:36 pm
8
7
Go back,

To Wisconsin you atheist and agnostic haters.....

grinder48
2017
Points
grinder48 07/06/12 - 05:42 pm
1
0
Butt Out
Unpublished

They need to butt out. If our city officials elect to have these meetings, they can have these meeting. If our citizens don't like it, they can vote the elected officials out of office. That's how our system works.

sassylassie
502
Points
sassylassie 07/06/12 - 05:43 pm
10
6
I don't get it. Why won't

I don't get it. Why won't they tell us who has so much time on their hands that they have to report these breakfasts to such a destructive non-entity such as this group? I would love to know who is responsible for the complaint. And yet they can come in and question emails, time spent, etc etc? Who gives them the right to do this? I cannot understand why some people have nothing better to do than question an effort by the mayor to bring together our community in a peaceful and open manner. I guess some people are all about destruction of our core values and will do anything to stop us from exercising our rights. Nobody has to attend, it is voluntary and does not use taxpayer money. What gives? Sickening.

TrulyWorried
15386
Points
TrulyWorried 07/06/12 - 05:45 pm
9
7
Tots

You said it - Wisconsin residents - go back to where you come from - we mind our business here in the South and you go home and mind yours. Thank you - have a safe trip.

TrulyWorried
15386
Points
TrulyWorried 07/06/12 - 05:45 pm
6
8
Tots

You said it - Wisconsin residents - go back to where you come from - we mind our business here in the South and you go home and mind yours. Thank you - have a safe trip.

OJP
6948
Points
OJP 07/06/12 - 05:52 pm
9
9
Advocating for separation of

Advocating for separation of church and state does not necessarily make one "anti-religious". A healthy separation protects religion as much as it protects the state.

As a general rule, I think government should stay out of church and vice versa.

It will be interesting to see what conclusions the group finds.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/06/12 - 06:16 pm
7
6
Does the phrase

"...shall not prohibit the free exercise of..." have any meaning for you, OJP?

How do you figure government officials aren't allowed to exercise their faith with others who choose of their own volition to join them? It doesn't establish a state religion when you just offer an opportunity to participate without any coercion or penalty attached.

If you need any more reasons for government leaders choosing to pray with the citizenry, consider that no less than George Washington, John Adams, Abe Lincoln and the many of the lesser lights among of nation's leaders CALLED ON Americans to pray for specific reasons and for specific durations on time. Some even closed down the government and called for fasting along with the praying.

I can only wonder if people who think that this kind of obnoxious peskiness is a worthwhile use of their education and talents actually have the tiniest bit of knowledge regarding our nation's history.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/06/12 - 06:23 pm
7
6
Dear Yankees, Read the

Dear Yankees,

Read the Constitution and not Wikipedia. Then get back to us.

Freedom OF religion

NOT

Freedom FROM religion

Jake
32881
Points
Jake 07/06/12 - 06:34 pm
3
7
Wisconsin

And to think that some folks in Augusta were really interested in the Wisconsin election a few weeks ago.
"Yankees" and "Delta is ready when you are" are two of the most asinine things I read on here.

OJP
6948
Points
OJP 07/06/12 - 06:44 pm
6
7
@Fiat_Lux & Insider Information

There are two clauses regarding religion in the 1st Amendment, not just one: (1) The Establishment Clause and (2) The Free Exercise Clause.

The former generally prohibits government (all levels, via the 14th Amendment) from establishing a state religion or preferring one over another. The latter generally prohibits government (again, all levels) from restricting religious freedom (to the extent it does not interfere with the rights of others).

Most people seem to get confused regarding the difference between personal and state-sponsored expression. Deke is free to do whatever he wants as a person; not so as the Mayor of Augusta. And that is where money comes in. If even one cent of taxpayer money is used to prefer one religion over another, I do not think it should occur. (Ask yourself how you would feel if a non-Christian mayor used your tax dollars to promote a non-Christian religion, such as Islam or Paganism.)

Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Louisiana Republican, is in the news for being bewildered that a state program she voted for that diverts taxpayer dollars from public schools to religious private schools can be used to fund Islamic private schools. I can't help but think her failure to fully grasp the full meaning of the 1st Amendment is shared by many, many others.

Protect all religions and keep government out.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/06/12 - 07:09 pm
8
7
In point of fact, Jake,

most of us are sick and tired of carpetbaggers. Have been for around 150 years.

(How are things out there in CA? Surely not as hot as here... Hope you're doing well.)

Now who but a carpetbagger could object to this?

OJP
6948
Points
OJP 07/06/12 - 06:49 pm
4
8
If we don't need more evidence that the rating system is useless

Truly Worried's duplicate posts received different ratings...

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/06/12 - 07:08 pm
7
4
@OJP

1. The rating system is almost certainly worthless, but just sum the scores on Truly Worried's duplicate posts to get the actual rating score.

2. I do get the diff you refer to in your 3rd graf, 6:44 pm comment. However, these prayer breakfasts ARE INTENDED to include ALL faiths represented in Richmond County. It's not just the Christians that show up, and I'm quite certain that anyone who showed up of any faith whatsoever would be treated with respect and courtesy, and would be expected to do the same in return. The purpose is to help our community be more unified; the focus is on what we have in common, not on what divides us. There is no proselytizing.

(BTW, I totally agree re: Rep. Hodges. She was embarrassing.)

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/06/12 - 07:07 pm
6
3
@OJP Can point to any

@OJP Can point to any evidence that the mayor chose one church over another, one religion over another, the faithful over the faithless?

Again, I suggest reading the Constitution and not the Court's "interpretation."

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3100
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/06/12 - 07:17 pm
5
5
Madalyn Murray O'Hair &

Madalyn Murray O'Hair & Murray v. Curlett (1963) ... remind me how her life ended again? *sarcasm*

I wonder who she prayed to as she was murdered? People are out of control in this country. "One Nation. Under GOD ... "

OJP
6948
Points
OJP 07/06/12 - 07:22 pm
3
6
@Insider Information

Nope - that's why I said I am looking forward to the group's conclusions.

And a proper understanding of constitutional law requires much more than a plain reading of the text. Sure, provisions such as the age requirement for Senators and the President are clear; the same cannot be said for such concepts as Interstate Commerce.

"The more you know, the less you understand" could not be more true for the Constitution.

And whether you agree or not, the SCOTUS is the body that interprets the Constitution. There have been hundreds of years to pass a Constitutional amendment stating otherwise...

Sargebaby
4693
Points
Sargebaby 07/06/12 - 07:37 pm
6
1
"And whether you agree or

"And whether you agree or not, the SCOTUS is the body that interprets the Constitution."

As of the last three years, I kinda doubt they know how to interpret anything. There seems to be too much political influence pressure for them to act in an unbiased manner!

Jake
32881
Points
Jake 07/06/12 - 07:40 pm
2
5
Carpetbaggers

That is another term that should be laid to rest in the 19th century. Fiat, I know you were not around back then and I'm guessing that you are around my age but probably look a lot better.
Things are good here. Upper 70's, sunny with a slight cool breeze.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 07/06/12 - 07:43 pm
0
1
The mayor should not have
Unpublished

The mayor should not have started these breakfast meetings. This was bound to happen eventually.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/06/12 - 08:16 pm
4
3
Glad you're having nice weather, Jake

But I must disagree about the term "carpetbagger". It is entirely appropriate and useful today, as it was mid-19th century. There are loads of people who come to the South with the intent of exploiting us and converting us to their way of thinking and acting.

It's like one of the originals of them said so long ago: "They are still rebels in every way. They have been overcome but they have not been defeated! I'm coming home." I wish I could remember who it was that wrote that lament home to his family.

Fundamental_Arminian
1849
Points
Fundamental_Arminian 07/06/12 - 08:26 pm
2
4
Local complainants

    The group, which has an Augusta complainant whom Markert would not identify, routinely sues governments around the country over their religious activities (staff writer Susan McCord).

I hope this local complainant's name is published along with details of the harm(s) allegedly caused by the prayer breakfast. There were three or four local complainants several years ago when our government was unsuccessfully sued regarding its court seal. In that case, the complainants stated how sickening, upsetting, and offensive the court seal was. The impact statements about the prayer breakfasts must be something else.

Gage Creed
17863
Points
Gage Creed 07/06/12 - 09:44 pm
2
5
My vote for the most assine

My vote for the most asinine comment would go to those who comment on this area when they really don't have a dog in the fight....bless their heart.....

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3100
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/06/12 - 09:01 pm
3
3
Haha ... only a TRUE

Haha ... only a TRUE Southerner knows what "Bless their heart" means. Awesome!

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