But a small group of protesters from the Smyrna-based Atlanta Freethought Society and American Atheists say they will protest the event on the sidewalk outside of the Cobb Galleria Centre, where the event will be held, as they take issue with the fact that the phone number listed to call for more information is a Cobb County line.
Virgil Moon, Cobb County Support Services Agency director and president of the Cobb County Prayer Breakfast Committee, Inc., which puts on the breakfast every year, confirmed that the voicemail-only landline at (770) 528-3328 is run out of his office, and that his administrative staff is in charge of answering messages requesting information. Moon said the department has operated the line since at least 2004, and that while staff work the lines, all work related to the breakfast is done during non-county working hours and they are reimbursed by the committee for hours worked.
Last year, Moon said the committee paid staff $524.95 for work performed organizing the breakfast. The phone line costs 20 cents a month and the committee also
reimburses the county for the $2.40 it takes to keep phone lines open throughout the year.
“In our opinion, local governments should not be running religious services. Churches should do that. It’s not an appropriate role for them to be using county resources for a religious event,” said Steve Yothment, president of the Atlanta Freethought Society. Yothment said his group has 120 paying members and another 120 to 130 active participants.
Yothment said the group protested the breakfast five years ago, but decided to protest this year when members saw on a flier being handed out that the phone number listed is a county government office number.
“Clearly, the Cobb County government is involved in setting up the prayer breakfast, and we see that as a conflict,” Yothment said.
When asked if he viewed the county’s participation as a violation of the separation of church and state, Moon said he did not.
“It’s a non-denominational event, and mostly, the people who make up the committee are business people. The Board (of Commissioners) passed a proclamation in the ’80’s saying they support this event as a way for the community to come together,” Moon said.
Moon said the county is not donating any money to the breakfast, and while a table is set up for the Board of Commissioners, Moon said it is a “comp table” where no money is exchanged between the county and the breakfast committee.
This year’s featured speaker is newly appointed Lockheed-Martin Aeronautics Vice President and General Manager Shan Cooper. Moon said other speakers include: Scott Gregory, emcee; Old Testament Reader, Nancy Blithe; New Testament reader, Jared Harris; Lisa Olens, Benediction; and Andrew Egan will introduce Gregory.
Tickets are $20 each or $200 for a table of 10.