A group of female power walkers who begin and end their workouts with a prayer were surprised when a Georgia mall cop approached them on July 22 and told them to stop praying.
The security officer informed the women, known as "Dublin Girls Run", that praying was against the Dublin Mall's rules.
Dublin Girls Run, led by Tammy Brantley, combines physical activity with spiritual wellness. They meet at the Dublin Mall on Veterans Boulevard in Dublin, Georgia.
"The group was started to be healthy and to be spiritually healthy, too," Brantley told Fox News in an interview published Wednesday. "I like to start off my runs with a prayer and end it with a prayer."
Brantley said that the prayers are neither long nor disruptive.
"There are no more than 10 ladies that come out at one time, and we grab each other's hands, and we bow our heads and pray," she told WMGT. "And we pick one person out of the group to say the prayer."
The group had been meeting at the mall, praying, and exercising since November 2013 without incident. Two weeks ago, however, they received the surprising warning when they bowed their heads to pray.
"The security guard came running toward us and said, 'You are not allowed to pray at the mall. That's against the policy,'" Brantley said.
"I told him we've been praying since last November and no one said anything about it," she continued.
"We've never had any problems."
Allegedly, the security guard told her that the mall had prior issues with a religious group trying to recruit mall shoppers. Dublin Girls Run was not evangelising, however. The women asked to see the mall's manager, who upheld the security guard's prohibition.
"The mall manager verified that prayer is not allowed at the mall because this is private property," she said.
"I said, 'Sir, are you saying that people who eat in the food court can't bow their heads and pray?' He said, 'No ma'am.' That's exactly what he said."
Brantley said the experience was disturbing.
"It's very sad," she intimated. "It's really heartbreaking."
The Dublin Girls Run co-founder wrote about the experience on her Facebook page, and drew the attention of local media.
Dublin Mall owners responded to the controversy by clearing up their prayer policy.
"The Mall first and foremost has no issues or objection whatsoever with anyone of any religion denomination privately and quietly praying over there 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," they wrote on their Facebook page on Tuesday.
A Dublin Christian, Brandon Berry, received a permit from the Mayor to host a prayer rally outside the mall on Thursday, August 7 at 6pm Berry told WMGT that more than 10 churches of varying denominations are expected to attend.