City hall discontinues ticket sales for mayor’s prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Maryland

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Mayor Rick Meehan [Ocean City, Md.] urging the city to discontinue the use of city resources and taxpayer funds to “plan, organize and promote” a Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, scheduled for Dec. 10, 2010. Tickets for the event were available for purchase at city hall (as they were in the previous year). The Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast was started to “bring the word of God back to the Ocean City and Worcester County community . . . ” (Ocean City Today, Nov. 27, 2009). The 2010 organizer was quoted saying “This country was founded upon Biblical values, and we’ve really turned away from it. That’s not because of the people, but because of the government shutting God out of everything” (Ocean City Today, Nov. 26, 2010).

FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert noted that the city’s involvement in this event “sends the message that the City not only prefers religion over non-religion, but also Christianity over all other religions. It alienates nonbelievers in Ocean City by turning them into political outsiders in their own community,” thereby violating of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, “which requires government neutrality toward religion.” A city attorney responded that tickets will no longer be available for purchase at city hall (Dec. 6, 2010). — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation