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The war on Christianity

A group of women walkers in Georgia who wanted to end their session by forming a circle and praying in a shopping mall were told that they could not do that.

A few weeks ago the Dublin Girls had gathered inside the local mall for an evening power walk. They formed a small circle and as they had done many times before, they bowed their heads to petition the Almighty.

But before one of the runners could say, “Lord Jesus,” she was interrupted by a mall cop barreling down a corridor.

“The security guard came running toward us and said, ‘You are not allowed to pray at the mall. That’s against the policy,’” Tammy told me.

The ladies thought the security guard was simply mistaken so they asked him to call the mall manager. It turns out – the security guard was not mistaken.

“The mall manager verified that prayer is not allowed at the mall because this is private property,” she said.

The women reported being “shaken up by the ordeal”. The author of the Fox News article says that this yet another sign of “a nation that has become increasingly hostile to people of faith” and gives as a clinching argument the fact that the mall “won’t even allow patrons to ask God to bless General Tso’s chicken at the food court’s Chong Wah Express”.

Comments

  1. says

    Shaken up by the ordeal??? Encounters with Mall Ninjas (see: http://lonelymachines.org/mall-ninjas/ ) can be fatal. Any encounter with self-selected authoritarians is potentially dangerous. Being told not to pray in the mall is surely cause to take one’s business elsewhere – as I would, if there were people loudly praying in my presence.

  2. Chiroptera says

    From the linked article:

    Tammy said she understands that the mall is indeed private property and they have a right to dictate appropriate rules and regulations.

    It may not be as simple as that. Shopping malls may be considered public spaces in so far as the public can exercise certain consitutional rights on its premises. For example, in Pruneyard Shopping Center v Robins, the US Supreme Court affirmed that a group of high school students had the right to set up a table in the public area of the mall in order to gather signatures for a petition, the mall being “private property” notwithstanding.

    In certain cases, by opening your property up for business therefore making it a public accomodation, you lose certain rights in restricting the activities that go on in it.

    I’m not disputing that you may be correct that the owners of this mall may be legally entitled to prevent people from praying on its premises, but I want to point out that it’s not so simple as saying that its private property so the owners can set the rules they want.

    Do any of our legal experts around here know the precedents for this particular issue?

    On the other hand, there is something about this story that sounds odd. As WithinThisMind says, I wonder what really happened.

  3. Chiroptera says

    My apologies. I just reviewed Pruneyard. Evidently, the students had their rights upheld under the California state constitution; the federal question was whether granting the students this broad free speech right violated the mall owners’ rights under the US Consititution.

  4. Spooky Tran says

    I hope there’s a really good justification for not allowing prayer in a shopping mall. That’s really stupid.

  5. Chiroptera says

    Huh. Looking at the picture in that article, I have to wonder whether the actual rule being violated is, “black kids just hanging around looking like they’re doing nothing kind of makes us nervous.”

  6. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    They could have prayed silently and I don’t think anyone would have noticed or taken issue with it. But apparently it’s not enough for God to hear their silent prayers by reading their minds, they need everyone to see and hear their public display of faith. Another aspect of religion that always drove me nuts: so much obvious public posturing for something heralded as being deeply personal.

  7. Ed says

    Even if it was legal I would have a serious moral problem with it. Malls profited from the decline of public space. Many new American suburbs in the last 60 years didn’t organize themselves as traditional satellite towns but as chaotic sprawls with an absolute minimum of public space and no equivalent of a downtown or “Main Street” area where shops could be located.

    The hostility between the suburbs and their cities of origin based on race, class or both eliminated a good deal of urban commerce.

    So a lot of people are always on more or less private property unless they are on the roads. Whatever I may think of prayer, it is obnoxiously authoritarian to ban it as such. Disruptive behavior of any kind may be stopped by security.

    For instance, if two people are discussing politics, philosophy or literature while eating in the food court and the discussion deteriorates into a shouting match, this violates reasonable rules of mall behavior. But it would be absurd to ban such conversations altogether and have security sneaking around trying to catch people talking about a forbidden subject.

    Similarly, most acts of prayer cause no public disruption even if the person is obviously praying. If one person’s form of prayer requires them to dance around ringing bells and shouting, then that kind of prayer should obviously be practiced in another setting.

  8. says

    I hope there’s a really good justification for not allowing prayer in a shopping mall.

    I remember when the hare krishnas staked out Columbia Mall back in the 80s, and started trying to get donations from passers-by. They probably ruined it for everyone, huh? Religious-exempt begging isn’t allowed in airports, either, which are arguably even more public than a mall.

  9. Chiroptera says

    Uncle Ebeneezer, #9: They could have prayed silently and I don’t think anyone would have noticed or taken issue with it.

    I’m wondering if they were praying loudly enough to cause a disturbance. Because my first assumption is that they were in violation of some vaguely worded rule against loitering, in which case I think Ed makes a good point in #10. It’s hard to say seeing how the mall owners aren’t commenting themselves on this.

  10. Chiroptera says

    Okay, I’ve reread the article, and here is something interesting:

    The security guard told her they’d had a problem with a previous religious group trying to proselytize shoppers.

    Okay, now things are getting a little clearer. Namely, certain religious zealots have, to use Marcus Ranum’s phrase, ruined it for everyone.

    But Tammy said they weren’t trying to convert anybody – they were just trying to pray. And it’s not like they were having a “Holy Ghost Shoutin’ Prayer.”

    Taking Ms. Brantley’s statement at face value, it could be that management has over reacted to previous religious zealots’ trouble-making and this particular group has now been caught in the cross-fire, so to speak.

    It’s a difficult task in a nation that has become increasingly hostile to people of faith.

    Did the writer of this article not remember mentioning the previous group of religious trouble makers that started all this? I don’t know whether banning all displays of religious behavior (if, indeed, that is what the mall is doing) is appropriate, but the “hostility” being show is pretty damn minor in this case, and if this country is “increasingly hostile to people of faith,” but this seems to be one case where the “hostility” was generated by the disruptive behavior of “people of faith” themselves.

  11. jws1 says

    I was under the impression that Jesus didn’t approve of public displays of faith. That’s what some apparently bad folks called “Philistines” did.

  12. John Horstman says

    The major shopping mall in my area bans unaccompanied minors, presumably becasue a few have caused disruptions, so why not ban ‘em all instead of only rousting the disruptive parties? (They also stop-check people who look young, and have a heavy bias toward harassing people with darker skin.) Thus, I’m not terribly surprised, though I think categorically banning prayer is absurd (if you’re worried about disruptive noise, ban disruptive noise; if you’re worried about begging or “soliciting donations”, band those behaviors; etc.). And citing this as an example of a country increasingly hostile to the religious would be like saying my mall’s policy regarding minors is evidence that the country is increasingly hostile toward children. Bullshit Mountain is bullshit.

  13. busterggi says

    Gotta sidde with Uncle Eb.

    No reason these folks couldn’t have prayed at home or in church except exhibitionism.

  14. Reginald Selkirk says

    1) It’s not fair and equal treatment. Atheists are allowed to “not pray” there, so Christians should be allowed to “pray.”

    2) Who would name a shopping center “Pruneyard”? It evokes an image of old people having difficulty engaging certain bodily functions.

  15. naturalcynic says

    @ 14

    I was under the impression that Jesus didn’t approve of public displays of faith. That’s what some apparently bad folks called “Philistines” did.

    It says in Matthew 6:5-6 that the hypocrites [Jews specifically] were the ones who prayed and gave alms in public, outside of the synagogues or homes. The first eight verses of that chapter warn against any ostentatious religiosity.

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