News 12 First at Five / Thursday, July 26, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The showdown between Augusta's mayor and the Freedom From Religion Foundation may be coming to an end. The city law department is planning to recommend changes to the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.
"I hope there can be a resolution that we can all live with," said City Attorney Andrew Mackenzie. "Without the need for litigation."
The foundation wants the city to cease all organization of the monthly Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. The law department is drafting a suggested compromise.
"Maybe both sides won't be happy with it," Mackenzie said, "but it is something that both parties can probably live with."
There are pages and pages of emails with the Mayor's Assistant Karyn Nixon setting up the event under her city email address. In one case, Nixon asks a local church to host the breakfast after another church backed out at the last minute. The foundation calls the emails "grossly illegal" and claims it "certainly has the effect of government endorsement of religion."
We tried talking to Nixon.
"Hello," said Nixon with a smile. "Goodbye."
"Can I just have a quick comment from you about the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast?" we asked.
"No, you may not," Nixon said. "I have no comment."
The law department is recommending some changes.
"Obviously, if you compromise that is going to involve some change," Mackenzie said. "Either they are going to accept the position that we would be willing to do on the part of the Mayor's Office or not."
Mackenzie says those changes center around Nixon's role in the breakfast.
"If any change was to be done, it would probably be with regard to any government employees doing organization, promotion or anything like that with respect to the prayer breakfast," Mackenzie said.
This recommendation is now heading to mayor's desk.
"And then," Mackenzie said, "there is a decision to be made by the mayor about what he is going to do."
The mayor has been on vacation this week. The law department expects some direction from the mayor as early as next week.
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