The Freedom from Religion Foundation has criticized several cities, including the mayors of Rogers and Springdale, for sponsoring prayer breakfasts on the National Day of Prayer last week.
The Northwest Arkansas adjunct of the Democrat-Gazette has reported further (pay wall) on the story. Unsurprisingly, the cities are not too concerned about complaints of First Amendment violations. Rogers Mayor Greg Hines told the newspaper "if the organization has a problem with the Rogers Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, it can 'bring a team of lawyers and sue us.'"
The mayors claim they didn't really sponsor the events, though they do devote time to organizing and selling tickets. There, of course, comes the rub, which even Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse gingerly acknowledged. If there's a problem with his taxpayer-paid secretary selling tickets for the Christian event and "taking minutes," he said he'd make adjustments. Let us hope. Or else maybe she could sell tickets to the mosque's bean pie supper, too.
The prayer breakfasts last week were observances of the National Day of Prayer, as proclaimed by the president and governor. Rather than celebrate pluralism, however, they've tended to become organizing points for evangelical Christians, the Foundation says.
The National Day of Prayer Taskforce annually organizes numerous evangelical Christian events, often on public property with government speakers, which exclude non-evangelicals and nonChristians.
“We are shocked at the bad manners of these mayors who align themselves with events advertised as ‘Christian evangelicals need only apply.’ This kind of meddling in religion and promotion of one religion over another is what one would expect in a theocracy, not in our secular republic,” said Gaylor.
Rogers and Springdale officials insist their participation is a volunteer effort and not a government event. Rogers held its breakfast at the Cross Church, with Ryan Hale of the Walton Family Foundation as speaker. Former Hog football coach Ken Hatfield spoke to the Springdale breakfast at the Holiday Inn. Both events' tickets paid for costs and excess went to charity.