The owners of a shopping mall in Georgia insist they have no problem with shoppers “privately and quietly praying” in the mall after a Christian group said a security guard stopped them from holding a prayer circle.
MCK Properties released a statement on its Facebook page Tuesday after a group of mall walkers, called Dublin Girls Run, said they were approached two weeks ago by a Dublin Mall security guard and told it was against policy to pray, a local CBS affiliate reported.
Tammy Brantley, the group’s leader, said the guard told them the rule was in place because another church group had been proselytizing to shoppers.
She said she doesn’t believe they violated the mall’s code of conduct, which reads “disorderly conduct, or other disturbances which disrupt or endanger any patrons, guest, merchant or employee in the shopping center is not allowed,” the station reported.
Miss Brantley said it takes the group of about 10 women no longer than three minutes before and after a walk to say a prayer.
MCK Properties Vice President John Engler said in a statement that the mall “has no issues or objection” to people “privately and quietly” praying over their food or showing devotion toward their religion.
“Dublin Mall will not allow any congregating, soliciting, or disturbances from any group, religious group (no matter the denomination), or any organization in the Mall to disrupt or hinder any patron, guest, merchant, or employee with-in the private property of the Mall,” he said in a statement. “These rules are in place for the safety and support of the tenants with-in the mall and will allow all who shop here to feel comfortable. “
“[T]he Mall is impressed with the passion the community has displayed in its religious conviction, but it is our hope the community would also understand our position in that we serve many religious groups whom don’t all worship in the same manner,” the statement concluded. “The Dublin Mall does not have a problem with people who privately pray or show devotion for their religion, but the Mall does have a duty to the community to provide a shopping experience which is conducive to all who walk thru its doors..”
But Mr. Engler’s explanation isn’t going over well with patrons who are launching a boycott and calling for him to be fired.
“My shopping experience would be improved by others, no matter their belief, freely allowed to prayer while shopping or dining at a mall,” wrote Facebook user Christine Moody. “I’m never offended by prayer except by groups who wish to enslave, tax, rape or behead those that do not follow their Ideology masked as a religion. So you will not be seeing my money.
The story gained so much attention that a Facebook page titled “Power Display of Prayer” was created, and organizers have successfully obtained a permit from Dublin to hold a prayer rally outside of the mall Thursday evening. Nearly 500 had RSVP’d to the event by Wednesday afternoon.
“I encourage everyone to be peaceful and to be their neighbor’s keeper,” wrote the event’s host, Brandon Berry. “We want to have a positive image here. We don’t want any yelling, protesting or any of the like. I want peaceful united prayer as we pray for [our] First Amendment rights as Christians.”