- (Photo: SYATP)
A group whose focus is to wipe expressions of religion from the public square in the U.S. is attempting to stop Cullman County Schools in Alabama from conducting a prayer caravan that includes school district leaders stopping to pray at each school in early August. The atheist and "free thinkers" group is also asking the district to stop daily recitation of the Lord's Prayer over the schools' loudspeaker every morning.
Cullman County Schools Superintendent Billy Coleman was contacted by a lawyer from the Freedom From Religion Foundation with a letter which stated that the prayer caravan should be canceled and the daily prayer should stop because both are considered by the group to be unconstitutional.
Coleman said they've been doing the caravan for three years without any issues, according to WAFF.com.
"I think the issue they have is, it is school sponsored," said Coleman. "This is not something the board voted on. It is just something I started."
The caravan, which is scheduled for Aug. 10, was announced on the school website but taken down after the complaint.
Coleman said the prayer caravan was similar to prayer around the flagpole, WAFF reported, saying, "It's announced, people can come voluntarily."
"I'm not ashamed one bit of it. I'm a Christian," said Coleman. "I pray for our schools every single day."
"The school system doesn't sponsor it, so they're not going to cancel it. I initiated it; I am not going to cancel it."
Cullman County resident Cindy Navarro told The Christian Post that the FFRF is once again stepping into a situation that is not an issue for the residents.
"As for the Prayer Caravan they have a problem with, it is held during a time that is before school is back in session for the year," Navarro said. "It is a group of Cullman County residents who are gathering to pray for the protection of the children and employees of each school. No employees of the Board of Education are required to attend."
The FFRF lawyer says that, in regards to the Lord's Prayer, the school district has "no right to enforce a religious agenda on a captive audience of students and that schools may not host even 'optional' prayer."
The Madison, Wis.,- based group calls itself a state-church watchdog, and states that it has more than 19,000 members nationwide, including a chapter, The Alabama Freethought Society.
Although the activist groups such as FFRF often cite a "separation of church and state" clause in the Constitution as a defense for their reasoning, many legal experts say that their interpretation is a misnomer. The clause was meant to prevent government enforcement of a particular religion and not meant to exclude public expressions of faith, those opposed to the removal of such expressions say.