May 2016 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A flap over a mayor’s prayer breakfast is stirring up controversy in the city of South Pasadena, Calif.

The event drew attention because of involvement by local officials – although city leaders insist they didn’t organize the breakfast. According to the South Pasadena Review, City Manager Sergio Gonzalez told residents at a public city council meeting that despite its name, the event was private in nature.

“The city had no formal role,” Gonzalez said. “The city had nothing to do with this event. In fact, when my office became aware of it, I instructed all staff to let the public know, anyone who called, that we had no involvement.”

The South Pasadena Police Honor Guard opened the February event, which was held in the Oneonta Congregational Church and headlined by Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Art Downing. South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller also spoke at the event. Gonzalez attended, as did local school board member Joe Primith and City Councilman Robert Joe.

Critics are questioning the city’s involvement in the breakfast. 

“My first reaction to this event was to think, ‘Is our city government endorsing a sectarian religious event?” local resident Dave Beadle told the Review. “The more I have looked into this, the more unanswered questions pose themselves. . . . I don’t want to take away people’s right to pray and worship, but religious establishments seeking government approval, only serve to alienate others and divide us.”