published Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Senior citizens told they can’t pray before meals

By Arek Sarkissian II

Savannah Morning News

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 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.”

about Associated Press...

The Associated Press

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
justretired said...

When you pray don't do as the hypocrites, they love to pray ... that they may be seen of men. But you, . . enter your closet . . . pray to your Father in secret . . . Read your book folks instead of fussing about silly stuff

May 9, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.

Thanks but no thanks bub. We don't need hypocritical atheists telling us to read "our book". We already know HOW to read it, in context with many other passages you Leftist geniuses leave out. You take everything out of the context it was spoken/written in and pervert it or twist it to suit your agendas.

There never has been any un-constitutionality of Christians, Jews or anyone else mouthing softly or loudly, spoken prayers in public, neither is it unbiblical whenever or wherever Christians gather together. When we see just how far Gov't officials go to further an agenda, using a seniors meal as a 'bribe'-pray and you won't get fed.. is really what they are saying AND threatening. Little old men and women at the end of their lives. Now people, do you believe how much evil we have in our midst?

It IS your kind who seek to subvert EVERYTHING a Christian does and says according to your own atheistic worldviews, and prevent us from ANY display of our Faith. The Founders and Pilgrims to this country, including hundreds of millions of immigrants, would be appalled, just as these hard-working, sacrificing Seniors are, at the complete and evil insanity roaming the country nowadays. In the form of the ACLU, the Atheist movements and all others who seek to damn and shut up Christians while saying and doing nothing about extremist Muslims or Atheists in the US, loudly proclaiming their religion or their views on the rest of us.

In one northern town (maybe more now) the Islamic mullahs shut down the rights of a hundreds-year old church to ring its bells on Sunday morning. Instead, the Muslims were given the right to have a 'Call' to prayer-five times daily, shouted from a loudspeaker and then the mullahs voice shouting the prayers in Arabic-by the august City Council. A perfect example of cowardice and fear of Islamic retribution, knowing full well Christians would not retaliate. Five times a day and yet an established church in America cannot even ring one bell on Sunday morning.

What evil exists in this country today. How we will all pay.

May 10, 2010 at 12:30 p.m.
zipzap said...

Our freedom doesn't end just because OUR money kicks in.

May 11, 2010 at 7:53 a.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.