FFRF wants Calif. town to dissociate from prayer breakfast

1buenaParkThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is insisting that a California town stop its participation in an upcoming prayer breakfast.

The state/church watchdog is urging the city of Buena Park to discontinue using resources and taxpayer funds to plan, organize and promote an annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, scheduled this year on Thursday, Nov. 16.

While promotional materials indicate that "the Buena Park Mayor's Prayer Breakfast is presented by Mayor's Prayer Breakfast Committee — a 501(c) 3 not for profit organization," the city maintains a webpage on its official web page devoted to advertising the event. Along with soliciting donations and sponsorships and thanking sponsors, the city web page for the prayer breakfast states: "This year, the City of Buena Park Mayor Elizabeth Swift invites the public to experience the incredible story of faith with Christy Beam at the 2017 Mayor's Prayer Breakfast." LINK (Beam is the author of the Christian inspirational memoir "Miracles From Heaven.") Event advertisements, including the city web page, instruct the public to send RSVP forms and payments for tickets to Buena Park City Hall and to call the Office of the City Manager phone number for more information about the prayer breakfast. 

The city of Buena Park's apparent hosting and coordination of this prayer breakfast, along with the mayor's participation in the event, poses serious constitutional concerns, FFRF asserts.

"The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from endorsing, advancing or promoting religion," FFRF Associate Counsel Elizabeth Cavell writes to Buena Park City Clerk Adria M. Jimenez. "It is therefore improper for the city to be hosting, organizing, supporting or otherwise promoting a patently religious event, such as a prayer breakfast. This practice certainly has the effect of endorsing religion, sending the message that the city not only prefers religion over nonreligion, but also Christianity over all other religions." 

The city must therefore refrain from expending any further taxpayer dollars, using publicly funded employees or drawing on any other publicly funded resources, including its Web page, to promote the religious prayer breakfast. That's why FFRF is asking that the city of Buena Park and the mayor's office dissociate from the event and refrain from hosting, organizing or otherwise coordinating the breakfast. FFRF is also requesting financial records pertaining to the expenses and costs for the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, as well as correspondence about the event.

"A secular public entity such as a city cannot get involved in prayerful activities," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Officials need to pray less and work more to address their citizens' needs. We always encourage pious politicians to get off their knees and get to work."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with about 30,000 members across the country, including 3,800-plus in California. It has chapters all over the United States, including one in California. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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