City attorney: 'Action might need to be taken' after national group challenges Augusta mayor's prayer breakfast

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Rev. Fryer is speaking out after the Freedom From Religion Foundation declared the city must cease all sponsorship and organization of the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. (WRDW-TV / July 3, 2012)

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, July 18, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Freedom from Religion Foundation is demanding Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver to stop hosting his monthly Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. The city attorney is talking only to News 12 about the possible legal battle.

We got our hands on new emails that seem to complicate things. The foundation released the following headline: "Freedom from Religion Foundation tells Augusta mayor eggs and bacon need a side of toast, not prayer."

"I am in opposition to it," said Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett about the prayer breakfast. "I always have been."

Lockett made the declaration on our weekly radio segment on 96.3 KISS FM with Fattz and Cher. Lockett's comments come as the foundation sends a second letter of complaint calling for the city to cease all organization of the monthly Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.

Lockett feels the breakfast is "most certainly" political.

"I don't believe that the mayor of any city should have a prayer breakfast," he said. "I have questions about the legality of it."

The foundation is targeting emails from the mayor's executive assistant, Karyn Nixon.

She asked a local church to host the breakfast after another church backed out.

The foundation calls the exchange "grossly illegal." They say the email exchange "certainly has the effect of government endorsement of religion."

"They've expressed their concerns. We're expressing our views," said City Attorney Andrew MacKenzie. "We're researching and there may be some action that might need to be taken."

Mackenzie is actively working on a resolution.

"Usually, neither side is really happy with it," said MacKenzie about any possible resolution. "But they can both live with it."

Lockett takes issue with Mackenzie's involvement.

"This is an individual thing," he said. "The mayor, I think, should get his own representation if he wants to oppose this."

They mayor is brushing it all aside.

"When you are in a leadership position, you have a target on your back," Copenhaver said. "I accepted that from day one. People can keep shooting at me, but I'll keep to it the high ground because it is harder to hit you then."

The foundation wants an immediate response from the city.


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