Alabama's Governor Robert Bentley has designated Friday a "Day of Prayer" for students in the state at the request of a statewide youth organization that supports student-led Christian clubs on school campuses.
First Priority of Alabama, which encourages Christian clubs to meet weekly before school, announced that Gov. Bentley, a Republican, had proclaimed the last Friday in March as the 9th annual "Day of Prayer Over Students Across Alabama." The Christian organization is encouraging Alabama residents to pray for students on Friday.
First Priority of Alabama is part of a larger national effort known as First Priority of America. The group organized this year's statewide prayer event in conjunction with Moms in Prayer, an international Christian organization that encourages mothers to pray for the world's youth. First Priority of America also organizes the national "See You at the Pole" events that encourage students to gather at their school's flag pole before school to pray.
"Praying for the students in our area is not just a privilege … it's a necessity," First Priority of Alabama said in a statement posted to its website. "Students live in a tough world! Each day, students are subjected to literally thousands of offensive images and words. They also face an enormous amount of peer pressure to become part of what is considered normal by the world's standards. Without prayer, these students will not be able to stand against the insurmountable odds they will face from childhood until they leave this world."
The organization is also encouraging local churches to form "prayer zones," where people can gather to pray for students on Friday. It is also suggesting "prayer walks" around local schools. Those wishing to organize prayer walks must first receive permission from the school principal.
Gov. Bentley, who is also a Baptist deacon, has been known to proudly pronounce his Christian faith. The Republican governor told attendees of the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee meeting in 2011 that he prays every morning, adding: "Even the governor has the right to say that."
Bentley also received criticism following his inauguration in 2011 when he told a crowd in Montgomery that he wanted them to all be his brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ. "Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
The then-newly elected governor met with civil rights groups and religious leaders shortly after to apologize for his statement. "If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way."