Liberty Counsel Helps Restore Prayer to Senior Center in Georgia

Port Wentworth, GA – Liberty Counsel’s legal advice led to yesterday’s change of the controversial ban on senior citizens praying over their meal at the Ed Young Senior Citizens Center in Port Wentworth, GA. Senior litigation counselor of Liberty Counsel, David Corry, spoke with Mayor Glenn Jones yesterday on the issue. The Department of Aging Services of the State of Georgia confirmed Liberty Counsel’s advice to the Mayor. The center’s director then reversed the decision of Senior Citizens Inc. based on what he learned, and voluntary prayer was restored. 

In addition, this action has clarified the State of Georgia’s policy on allowing prayer. While originally there was some confusion on the policy, an email recently came from the human resourcing/aging services agency to Senior Citizens Inc., denying the existence of any policy that “would prohibit an individual from praying either publicly or privately, before or after a meal” and establishing a strong foundation for religious expression within the state. 

This controversy began May 7, 2010, when residents of the Ed Young Senior Citizens Center in Port Wentworth, GA were banned from saying prayers before meals. Instead, they were instructed they could only observe a moment of silence before their meal. Seniors taking the meals pay 55 cents and federal money pays for the rest of the bill, said Tim Rutherford, vice president of Senior Citizens. Inc. He said staff had observed residents praying aloud before meals and mistakenly thought that federal funding would trigger the so-called “church-state separation.” After several conversations with Liberty Counsel educating and encouraging local leadership, yesterday they announced a policy reversal allowing senior citizens to practice their freedom of religion. Now the elderly can voluntary say grace without any fear of consequences.

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “We are pleased that the seniors can once again pray over their meals. But, we are astounded the seniors were told that they could only have a moment of silence. The so-called ‘separation of church and state’ mantra has worn thin. It now conjures up the ridiculous. It is past time to abandon this phrase and return to a common sense historical approach to the Constitution.”

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