Pa. Mayor, Religious Leaders Unite to Fast and Pray for Harrisburg

Mayor Linda Thompson of Harrisburg, Pa., is uniting with religious leaders and fasting for three days starting Wednesday for the good of the city amid a financial crisis.

The mayor hopes that during the three days "a cooperative spirit among government leaders, the business community and citizens" will pervade as the city faces various challenges.

The fast will be based on an all liquid diet where dozens of religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths will participate. The fast will end Friday evening followed by a prayer service at Goodwin Memorial Baptist Church, where Thompson has been a member for 13 years.

Due to the city’s current financial debt of nearly $300 million and a possible bankruptcy, Thompson believes that “things … are above and beyond my control. I need God. I depend on Him for guidance – spiritual guidance. That's why it's really no struggle for me to join this fast and prayer."

She added, “So this is really calling for unity among our governmental leaders, for solidarity, for a reasonable and sound financial recovery plan so that we can all have a prosperous city and get our city back to solvency.”

Thompson’s outward display of her Christian faith hasn’t been welcomed by all. Recently, Stover Clark, who wrote grants for the city, quit in February after filing a complaint at ACLU for Thompson’s prayers at staff meetings. Chuck Ardo, a former communications director, left for similar reasons.

According to Patriot News, Thompson was praying for Ardo while he was present and asked him to seek forgiveness for not accepting Jesus Christ as his savior.

Ardo told ABC 27 News, "Her religious practices don't belong in the office."

ACLU warned Thompson since 2010 to cease office prayer meetings in her office or otherwise face litigation but she declined their caution and continues to hold prayer.

She said in an e-mail, “Prior to opening the meeting, I make it very clear to all attending ... that it was voluntary and they are permitted to leave the room and return after the prayer session was concluded. Not one of the employees left nor did anyone complain to me or management."

Thompson's communications director, Bob Philbin, said in a statement that claims of religious intolerance in the workplace was "absurd" and “anyone employed by the City of Harrisburg knows there is no religious, gender, race, or sexual orientation bias in the city workplace."

Aware of the criticism, Thompson said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As for me, it’s my demonstration for dependence and obedience.”