Springfield, IL Mayor Plans to Hold Prayer Breakfast, but FFRF is on His Trail

This is the image that is currently on the city of Springfield, Illinois’ website:

It raises a couple of questions:

  • Why is the Mayor hosting a prayer breakfast?
  • Why is the number for purchasing tickets the same as the Springfield Department of Community Relations?

[I]t is grossly illegal and inappropriate for the city to be hosting, organizing, supporting or otherwise promoting a patently religious event, such as a prayer breakfast,” [FFRF staff attorney Rebecca] Markert added. “This practice, which has been recurring for the last 17 years, certainly has the effect of government endorsement of religion.”

In a letter of complaint (PDF) sent to the Mayor by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Markert explains another reason prayer breakfasts should be stopped:

The events, even if deemed interfaith, notably exclude those of no religious faith — the non-religious and the non-believers…

The purpose and effect of any prayer breakfast “sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’”

In addition to the letter, Markert also requested the following open records:

  1. Any financial records — purchase orders, invoices, receipts or other similar documents — pertaining to expenses and costs for the event.
  2. Copies of any correspondence from city employees to and from Houston and any other city employee involved in coordinating the event.
  3. Copies of invitations or other correspondence to and from any 2012 event speakers or hosts.

If nothing else, that ought to give the Mayor a good scare. If he’s smart, though, he’ll realize he’s been caught and just cancel the event altogether.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.