Atheist group looking into Hattiesburg Prayer Breakfast - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Atheist group looking into Hattiesburg Prayer Breakfast's legality

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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

A national atheist activist group has made an open records request to determine if the City of Hattiesburg uses tax funds to support the upcoming Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims the city is sponsoring the event because tickets can only be purchased from the mayor's administrative assistant, and the breakfast is promoted on the city's website.

The Foundation also sent a letter to Mayor Johnny Dupree telling him he must cease all sponsorship and organization of the breakfast by the city.

An attorney for the Foundation says they will decide what course of action to take once they have reviewed the records and determined the level of involvement by the city.

The letter claims the breakfast is illegal and unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that prohibits government from endorsing, advancing, or promoting any religion.

"I've heard it in the past, I don't know for certain, that the city may have financially sponsored the event," said Dupree. "We haven't. It's totally underwritten by the cost of attending. Tickets are $40. If there is a short fall, my wife and I personally handle the shortfall."

Dupree claims anyone involved in organizing the event is a volunteer and no city tax dollars are used to fund the breakfast.

"We are a praying people, and I almost resent the fact that some one in Wisconsin wants to tell us we can't pray.

Mayor Dupree said the event will go on as planned.

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