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 chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    I hope Houston gets the message, but frankly, given Springfield, I doubt he’ll listen unless he knows that there’s a serious chance of legal action. Good on the FFRF for pursuing this, though.

  • newavocation

    Hey Rev, having trouble getting people to come to your church on Sundays? Are you having trouble making the mortgage payment on your new alter? Why don’t they just be more honest about this crap and pass around a donation plate for the Reverend too? 

    • Guest

      What the west lost the rest of the world gained. Religion and…money too.

      • Piet Puk

         Butthurt troll is butthurt..

  • http://twitter.com/crankyhumanist Cranky Humanist

    The notice seems to be gone from the site, and I can find no mention of the prayer breakfast anywhere. Am I missing something or did the letter have that fast of an impact?

    • A3Kr0n

       I can’t find it either, but I see they have free leaf pickup, and the police have a ride-a-long program. How cool is that?

    • Guest

      Maybe people are reeling from the shock of the stock market plunge. Bet the smart ones who made a killing are hilarious with glee and already had breakfast prayers.

      • Question Everything

        Huh?  The Dow jumped on Nov 1st, then went back to the level it was at before, which was still slightly higher than the days before. That’s a plunge?

        • Guest

          The plunge came the day after election. For those who short it is laughing all the way to the bank.

  • AdzyBoy

    I was very dismayed (to say the very least) when I received in the mail not two days ago a flyer from my own city (Gonzales, LA) announcing the “26th annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast,” complete with the words, “Partnership with God Equals Strong Community.”

    The only (small) consolation is that tickets cost five dollars, so at least it is not 100% taxpayer-funded (I suppose), but the fact the my local government is endorsing religion in such a way galls me.

  • Bill

     Wow.  One seat costs $20.00; but you can get a whole table of 10 seats for just $200.00.  Such a deal!

    • ImRike

       Obviously, they realize that Prayer Breakfast Attendees could never figure out the price of 10 seats on their own!

  • Robster

    Twenty bucks to pray? Jees, it it actually achieved something more than making the “prayee” feel warm ‘n fuzzy then perhaps it could be considered money well spent, but we all know that it’s about as useful as farting in a spacesuit. Go FFRF!

  • Sven2547

    It’s amazing how dumb some of these elected officials are.  If you want to hold a prayer breakfast in your capacity as a private citizen, that’s your right, but don’t use public resources to do it!  Is that such a hard concept to understand?!


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