A group of women were told that they were not allowed to pray in a shopping mall, not even over their meals at the food court, because it was against the mall’s policy. This wasn’t a mall in Communist China, or Iraq. This happened in a mall at mall in Georgia, in the United States of America – the land of the free and home of the brave.
The Dublin Girls are a group of ladies who regularly get together for power walks and runs, as well as for fellowship, reports FOX News. Recently, the women met at the Dublin Mall in Dublin, Georgia, for an evening power walk, just as they had done many times before. The Dublin Girls, co-founded by power-walker, wife, and mom,Tammy Brantley, have been doing this since November with no problems. And just as they always did, the group gathered in a circle and bowed their heads to pray.
They didn’t even get out a “Dear Jesus” before a mall cop broke into their prayer and demanded that they stop:
“You are not allowed to pray at the mall. That’s against the policy.”
The security guard told them that they have had problems with people “proselytizing” shoppers, an act which, even though many would see it as falling under the Freedom of Speech provision of the U.S. Constitution, Brantley’s group was not doing. They were simply praying in a circle before beginning their power walk. The ladies said that no one outside of the group would even have been able to hear them.
“The group was started to be healthy and to be spiritually healthy, too,” Tammy Brantley told FOX‘s Todd Starnes. It is her custom to “start off my runs with a prayer and end it with a prayer.”
Surely the mall cop was mistaken, they thought. Perhaps he was overzealous and misunderstood the mall’s policy. Some of the Dublin Girls asked to speak with the manager to help clear up what they believed was certainly a misunderstanding.
In fact, it was even worse than they thought. The manager of the mall told them that, because the mall was private property, they were allowed to make their rules, and one of them was that prayer is not allowed.
One of the walkers asked the obvious question: “Sir, are you saying that people who eat in the food court can’t bow their heads and pray?” She reports that his response was very clear: “He said, ‘No ma’am.’ That’s exactly what he said.”
That evening, Tammy Brantley posted on Facebook about her experience at the mall. A local journalist picked up on the story for the Courier-Herald in Dublin, and news began to spread.
Reporters found that they were unable to reach the mall management for comment.
According to an article in Tuesday’s Courier-Herald, mall officials had told Brantley that a group from Laurens Baptist Association was trying to witness at the mall recently, but LBA director Bobby Jones has “no clue what they are talking about,” denying that the group has held an event or even been out there at the Dublin Mall recently. (Would it matter if they had?)
The community is outraged. The mall’s Facebook page filled up with 1-star reviews. Customers have voiced opposition to the policy on social media, expressing their disappointment in the management’s chilling the free speech and freedom of religion rights of its customers at the mall.
Many have vowed not to patronize the mall’s many stores, which include JCPenney, Belk, Rite Aid, Goody’s, Bath & Body, Kay Jewelers, Office Max, Gamestop, and Starbucks, among others. Others have expressed the hope that the merchants will push back against the policy that has alienated many of their customers in the local area.
Georgia is part of the deep South, in what is still considered “the Bible belt.” The actions of the mall’s management are not going over well. But if a group of Muslims or Hindus or Jews were told that they couldn’t pray at the mall, it would be equally as wrong, and disturbing.
A “Power Display of Prayer” vigil has been organized on a grass-roots level by Brandon Berry and others that will take place on Thursday evening at 6 pm at the Dublin Mall. Supporters will be meeting in the grassy area between the mall parking lot and the road to pray together as a group, taking a peaceful stand for the right to pray.
Organizer Berry is an Army veteran who says that he has many friends of different faiths, which “doesn’t bother me one bit. So why should those ladies saying a prayer, or me bowing my head while I eat my dinner, bother anyone?”
Today, John Engler, vice president of MCK, released the following statement, according to WMAZ:
“The Dublin Mall over the last week has been the subject of conversation throughout the community. Through meeting with some of the various people involved, some of the stories have merit while others have gone off the deep end and due to the sensitive issue have publically [sic] hampered the Dublin Mall. The Mall first and foremost has no issues or objection whatsoever with anyone of any religion denomination privately and quietly praying over there [sic] food before they eat or showing devotion towards their religion of choice provided it does not impose itself on others or take away from the overall shopping experience.”
Some see this as a small victory, but others see it as falling far short of the apology and change of policy regarding prayer that is needed. Obviously, the mall security cannot be “thought police” and stop people from praying silently. No one can. The Dublin Girls maintain that their prayer was not interfering with any other shoppers and were not affecting any of the merchants.
In May, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that prayer may be held in government meetings without being a violation of the Constitution. The Inquisitr reported that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins applauded their decision, saying: “The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square.” Does the Dublin Mall management believe that its customers should be required to check their faith at the door of their mall?
This chilling story raises many questions:
Is it acceptable for a business that opens itself up as a public meeting place to place restrictions on the speech or religious expression of their patrons? Did the manager of the mall go too far in compelling the Dublin Girls to refrain from praying out loud? Is the statement by the management enough, or is it simply them trying to cover their behinds? Is this a frightening limitation on American liberty when a group of women are told that they cannot pray in the mall? Is it time for praying Americans to fight back? What do you think?
[images via Facebook]