The fastest-spreading story on the Internet today is the one from Georgia where — allegedly — senior citizens have been told they can’t pray aloud before their meal because the food is provided courtesy of the federal government.
The Associated Press kicked things off last week with a story that the agency that runs the senior center — Senior Citizens Inc. — told the seniors they couldn’t pray aloud because praying over food that is paid for with federal money violates the separation of church and state.
The agency claimed it’s in the federal guidelines, according to the Associated Press.
FoxNews got in on the story today, featuring a politician who’s taken up the cause:
“I told them they’re not fighting this alone,” Eric Johnson, a Republican running for governor, told FoxNews.com. “To heck with the federal government — we can’t stop people from free practice of their faith.”
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
There is no evidence such a guideline — as interpreted — exists in any federal contract, however. And there’s no indication there’s anything involved here other than an official of a senior citizen center who doesn’t quite understand the Constitution.
Nothing infringes on the right of people to pray. But a government agency cannot force someone to pray, lead a prayer, or sponsor a prayer. Praying to oneself is not any different than praying aloud and if the senior center official believes a silent prayer is acceptable under the Constitution, a verbal prayer would be as well.
But it’s too late. The story is already spreading. “Oppressive Government: Feds Tell GA Old Folks They Can’t Pray Before Meals,” screamed one Web site headline.
Expect to find this story in your INBOX on a regular basis for the next several years.
Update 4:10 p.m. – From Georgia Public Broadcasting:
“There are no guidelines or policies set by the Division of Aging Services that would prohibit public prayer,” says James Bulot, head of the Division of Aging Services at DHS. “We serve over four million me
(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)