Atheists will protest prayer meeting
by Katy Ruth Camp
mp@mdjonline.com
April 19, 2011 12:00 AM | 5753 views | 28 28 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GALLERIA — The list of speakers is being finalized and the time is drawing near for the 27th annual Cobb County Prayer Breakfast.

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.
Comments
(28)
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Absoluteconflict
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April 25, 2011
@ Common sense, I accept your challenge. I have done my homework on both the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. Please let me know where I'm wrong and also be specific.

You imply that all those who believe in separation of church and state are atheistic; absolutely false. I’m a fervent supporter of separation of church as state and I am in fact a church going Christian. I do not want Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. supported by my local Government any more than practitioners of those religions want Christianity supported by Government, in spite of our clear majority (hence the protections offered under the 1st amendment)
Common sense
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April 22, 2011
I challenge those of you that "think" you understand the seperation of church & state to do your home work and really understand its purpose. How embarrasing for you athiest to not know or understand its intent or purpose and to fuel and promote lies and deception. What kind of legacy are you creating or leaving...
Absoluteconflict
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April 20, 2011
@getover yourselves did you not read the article?

What part of "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" makes you think this is NOT a de facto government event? His staff (i.e., government staff) should not be supporting anybody's religious activities.

What’s he doing running a non-profit organization out of his government office in the first place!

@ Against FreeThinking anyone who turns this into "government employees aren't allowed to be Christians" argument have hopped off the "rational thought" train a long time ago. We are a nation of laws, not of men (with particular religious convictions). Those laws serve to protect our freedoms, one of which is the freedom to practice whatever religion we choose or no religion at all if that is our preference.

Against FreeThinking
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April 19, 2011
If this is the best a free thinker can do, then I think it is a waste of time. I really don't know if the free thinkers are atheists or what they are. I doubt if they know. It is probably something someone thought up and thought it was a good idea at the time.

I really wonder what they are against. Are they against God, and any acknowledgement of Him? Do they really think that since the founding of this country on Christian principles that Government employees and government officials are going to stop believing in God the minute they go into a government building?

Do these people think that God is a myth and just do not want anyone believing in Him? Why should anyone care what anyone else believes?

On day, if these people are actually non-believers, they are going to find out they are wrong.
All Welcome
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April 19, 2011
Hey, why dont the atheist just buy a table and go on in. How can they protest something they know very little about. By the way, they dont have a prayer of being taken seriously.
getover yourselves
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April 19, 2011
@Absoluteconflict

Your point is moot because it's NOT a government event. Who are you or me or anyone to tell someone they can't pray when they want? No matter where they work. If someone wants to take a break & read the Bible, Torah, Koran etc are you going to tell them they can't?

I've never been to one of these meetings but I have a feeling they pray before they eat & maybe after & the rest of the time is spent gossiping.
Know the Truth
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April 19, 2011
Hasn't anyone figured out that no one pays attention to protesters? I couldn't care less about their opinion - no one cares. The county government doesn't pay for this event. Easily proven. Muslims could have a prayer meeting if they wanted to - its the national day of prayer. But the organization sponsoring this event doesn't have to invite them - its not government sponsored. These protesters just want attention and their argument is one of ignorance.
Hooray 4 u
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April 19, 2011
Sure wish our county facilities were used more often by groups instead of just the hours the employees are there - way to go mr. moon - thinking outside the box!

Saved by Grace
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April 19, 2011
I'll second what Mike R wrote earlier. May GOD Almighty bless those that continue to curse His name and the people involved with events like this one. More power to Moon and his folks that are putting this breakfast on. I wish they would host it weekly! It is so sad to see people snub religion like this now-a-days. Especially since this great country was founded by Christians. Not Mulsims, Jews, Hindus or atheists. It was founded by Christians seeking freedom from religious persecution.

God is the reason we are here and the reason we have somewhere to go after this life is over. Our nation needs a prayer breakfast every morning! Praise God for all this country has become.
Chip Chipperson
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April 19, 2011
I would like to congratulate Connie Mack, Jr. on writing out a complete sentence. I didn't think you had it in you. Now, on the other hand, I see that you still don't have any substance or any sign of intelligence to your post. I guess we'll just take what we can with you. Baby steps
AbsoluteConflict
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April 19, 2011
What if Mr. Moon was muslim and the "Cobb County government prayer breakfast" was going to be spent reciting the Koran...everybody ok with that too?
Let Us Be Fair
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April 19, 2011
I think the Free Thought Society needs to move on to other areas. I am an atheist also, but I feel the Society has achieved their goal here. Why are they still protesting? The county clearly is not funding this event.
Clear Transgression
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April 19, 2011
Government employees, facilities, utilities, worktime, etc. being used to organize a religious event.........how is this NOT a conflict of the separation of church and state policy....regardless of what your own religious believe is or isn't??
Connie Mack Jerk
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April 19, 2011
Hey Connie Mack Jr., Spoken like a true moocher Marxist, Go away troll.
getover yourselves
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April 19, 2011
Let 'em protest. Who really will pay them any attention?

My issue is Mr. Moon should pay for the phone line out of his own pocket. He's getting such a good deal on maintaining the line because it's bundled in with the county numbers.

"Cobb County" in the title of the prayer breakfast means nothing. It doesn't say "cobb county government prayer breakfast".

Other than the phone line how is this a violation of church & state? Is the man not allowed to have a job?
TCLC
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April 19, 2011
Those who seek to remove God from any public expression have inverted the First Amendment. The no-establishment clause exists to protect religion from government intrusion, not to prevent citizens from expressing their religious views in public. Specifically, the First Amendment prevents the federal Congress from establishing an official church of America (like England did with the Church of England). It does not prevent our government from acknowledging God or encouraging citizens to pray for the community. Especially since "all work related to the breakfast is done during non-county working hours and they [staff] are reimbursed by the committee for hours worked" I see no harm in using the county phone line for this event.
Connie Mack Jr
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April 19, 2011
Clearly it appears that the free thought society has become confuse since they refuse to worship the Republican Tea Party Alien Lizards who control the Cobb County Goverment..
OMIPS
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April 19, 2011
To me "Free Thinking" means that I can think about anything I want to Think about but it sounds like if you "Think" about stuff that the Free Thinking Society doesn't want you to "Think" about then you're not a Free Thinker. Therefore Free Thinkers can only "Think" about stuff that is approved by the Free Thinking Society. Someone from the Free Thinking Society needs to shed some professional light on my Thinking, please.
AbsoluteConflict
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April 19, 2011
Of course this is a conflict. The government has no business supporting any religious activity, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or otherwise! If Moon wants to run a prayer breakfast out of his house or church, more power to him, but this should not in any way be associated with a government body that collects taxes from people of all faiths. How myopic can you be?! By the way, I want Moon's phone deal...20 cents a month! These days 20 bucks a month is cheap!
MattTheAtheist
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April 19, 2011
As an Atheist I find this boycott to be a bit fickle. I believe in Separation of Church and State whole heartedly, but with an event like this where it is clearly stated (and I'm assuming subsequently proven) that the committee for this event is providing the funds, then I see no problem with it.
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