Alabama Public School District Plans ‘Prayer Caravan’ to Bless Schools for the Upcoming Year

Here’s how you know your school district is led by an incompetent individual: Instead of doing something to help the students, he makes plans to lead prayers in front of every school.

That’s what Cullman County Schools (Alabama) Superintendent Billy Coleman decided to do last week:

Superintendent Billy Coleman

It will be a time to lift out schools up to God and ask His blessings for the upcoming school year. We hope to see you on August 10th.

In Christ, Billy Coleman

It was apparently the third year of this “Prayer Caravan.”

Hours after the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Andrew Seidel sent Coleman a letter (PDF) telling him to put a stop to this nonsense, the district removed all references to the prayers from their website and Facebook pages.

And it turns out that wasn’t even the worst thing the district was doing:

We were also informed that schools in the Cullman County system recite the Lord’s Prayer over the loudspeaker each morning. We understand that an attempt to mask this illegal practice is made by giving students “the option” to participate.

Of course, it’s not really “optional” when the prayers come over the loudspeakers…

Coleman hasn’t issued an apology yet or said publicly that the prayer event and morning prayers will be cancelled permanently.

Until he does, he’s violating the law.

What’s more: It’s hard to believe he’s unaware of what the law says. He’s probably spent years trying to create these “loopholes” in order to push his faith onto the students. That’s why the Prayer Caravan is on a Saturday in the summer — because he thinks it doesn’t count as praying during the school year. That’s why the Lord’s Prayer was deemed “optional” — because he thought that would circumvent the Supreme Court precedent against mandatory school prayers.

Well, he’s been wrong this whole time. The loopholes don’t work like that. If he doesn’t fix the situation, the school’s likely to face a costly lawsuit — another move that will end up hurting the students.

Coleman needs to apologize, resign, and find work at some local church, since that’s obviously where he wants to be.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    I don’t know what the statistics are for this particular district, but there’s no doubt that by nearly all metrics, Alabama is one of the lowest performing states in terms of public education- consistently in the bottom ten, and in the bottom five is some categories.

    No wonder.

    • flyb

      But theys gots the Lawwd on them side. /drawl

      • C Peterson

        And if there’s one thing we know the Lawwd hates, it’s well educated followers.

        • islandbrewer

          … who know how to spell.

      • kaydenpat

        Ha!

    • OverlappingMagistera

      According to greatschools.org, Cullman High school seems really good. They have very high scores on Alabama’s standardized tests (Though the test measures against Alabama state standards, I’m not sure how those compare with other states.)

      http://www.greatschools.org/alabama/cullman/428-Cullman-High-School/?tab=test-scores

    • Keyra

      Level of education has very little to do with one’s faiths and beliefs

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        ……

      • iamgog

        That’s not what @daf2335999abd273bbfc3a4d6ce22c68:disqus was saying. What was being said is that the focus on religious posturing is a hindrance to good education. It also betrays a level of disrespect for the separation of church and state, or a total denial that such a thing exists and should be respected.

      • Matt D

        Thanks for the input.

      • baal

        Irrelevant and wrong. Religous faith drops with increasing education.

      • Greg G.
      • C Peterson

        You are completely wrong about that. Education correlates very strongly with religious belief- higher levels corresponding with decreased religious belief.

        However, your comment is unrelated to what I was saying, which is simply that I’m not surprised to find generally lower quality education in an environment where prayer is seen as a reasonable way to improve things, and where actual, tangible resources are invested towards prayer (as opposed to things like buying textbooks or school lunches).

    • Ryan Hite

      And the highest percentage of evangelical christians

    • JK

      It’s the lowest because Democrats have run the state for the last 100
      years. Finally Republicans are now in charge and things are improving.

  • ORAXX

    This man needs to lose his job. The people who endorse his behavior would be going out of their tiny little minds if he was leading their children in any prayer other than Christian.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Christian nation, Muslims are all evil people that worship a pedophile. Jesus, more Jesus, Amen!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Oh, look. Someone has started a Facebook page to help keep Jesus where he belongs. Christians just love using CAPITAL LETTERS.

    “”The Freedom From REligion Foundation has put Keep Prayer in Cullman County Schools on notice for a possible lawsuit to REMOVE PRAYER in our schools! Show your support by joining the group and help keep Jesus where He belongs!”””

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-Prayer-in-Cullman-County-Schools/154971458025206?ref=br_tf

    • Tainda

      Kind of off topic but still on: These are the same type of people that are trying to get Godsmack removed from a county fair because they are “Satan worshipers” aka Wiccan.

      Hypocritical bitches, all of them.

      Sorry, I’m a bit angry today.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Are you feeling a bit like this today?

        • Tainda

          Yes!

    • kaydenpat

      Jesus belongs in public schools? Why can’t parents teach their kids about religion at home or in churches? Feel sorry for non-religious and non-Christian pupils in the Bible belt.

  • Jasper

    I’d like to know why staunchly violating the law doesn’t come with prison sentences.

    • islandbrewer

      Because, while it violates the Constitution directly, there’s no concomitant criminal statute written (I assume) that has a prescribed punishment.

      Theoretically, the federal government (as it’s the US Constitution) or the Alabama State Legislature (*snorfflecoughsputter*) could enact such a statute with a criminal penalty, but, you know, good luck with that.

      • baal

        Public officials are also harder to sue than your average person since they are generally immune from prosecution for official acts. You can sue them but you have extra elements to prove.

      • UWIR

        If we had a DA with balls, they would charge anyone who spends public money defending these blatantly illegal acts with embezzlement.

        • islandbrewer

          I believe that requires one show that money was going into the embezzler’s pockets somehow.

          • UWIR

            I don’t think so. Embezzling is simply abusing one’s fiduciary trust. Taking public money and donating it to the Republic Party is embezzling.

            • islandbrewer

              Hrrrm, you’re right on that point. It usually merely requires converting the property one has trust over. It’s not a common law crime, so it’s going to vary statute by statute. Since the superintendent’s duty actually is to spend the money on, you know, stuff, it might be a tough sell.

  • Gus Snarp

    When I see a case this blatant and obvious I sometimes think they should skip the warning letter and just file the lawsuit.

    • baal

      The warning letter is step 2 on the law suit. Step 1 is asking nicely.

  • Jairn8

    Total crap

  • Mick

    Coleman is just trying to guarantee himself a place in heaven: “Look at me Jesus, look at me…”

    • The Other Weirdo

      Which was the exact behaviour Jesus railed against in Matthew 6:5-15.

  • Mark W.

    Well, you Mr. Coleman can do nothing to improve the school, or he can pray…but I repeat myself.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “To help the students of Alabama improve from their abysmally low position in educational performance, we’re going to have people drive to every public school campus and recite Magic Words from The Book of Magic Spells that was written by The Magic Spirit in the Sky. This will Magically improve their test scores without us having to teach them how to think carefully, which we have found can sometimes cause them to question their belief in Magic and the Magic Spirit in the Sky. In The Magic Spirit in the Sky’s Magical Earthly Incarnation, Billy Coleman”

    Yeah, magic is what it will take.

  • A3Kr0n

    Isn’t having the Prayer Caravan is on a Saturday in the Summer somewhat like fighting an enemy who has left the area? Can they declare a victory?

  • Carpinions

    Man alive I went to Catholic private schools for 12 out of 13 years of my formative education, and the religious BS that goes on in PUBLIC schools in the South is more faitheist than what I experienced in those private schools in a Northern state. It is sad that with each passing day I grow more convinced that certain segments of this country’s populace would shrivel away and die if they even considered that a god might not exist.

    • Anna

      I’ve said before, if I lived in the Bible Belt and had to choose between a public school and a Catholic school, the Catholic school might actually be the lesser of two evils!

      • Sweetredtele

        *obligatory Catholic schoolgirl joke*

  • LesterBallard

    Well, Alabama is 47th in US poverty rankings; 47th in education; and number 3 in obesity rates. They have their priorities in order.

  • Chakolate

    I can’t find anywhere where it says who’s paying for this. If this guy has spent school funds to proselytize his religion, I think he should be jailed for defrauding the school system.

  • Jim

    I live in Cullman County. It is a pleasant place to live and I like it here, but it is very conservative. Hell, they just legalized the sale of alcohol in the city only three years ago. This “Prayer Caravan” will be very popular here, and if there is a lawsuit over it, most of the people here will only see it as further evidence of persecution of Christians and harden their attitudes even more.. Alas, I don’t know any way to convince the folks here why they are wrong, and that the separation of church and state benefits them too. I have been trying though…

    • kaydenpat

      Doesn’t matter if it will harden their attitudes. This needs to be legally challenged.

  • cipher

    If I stop believing in Alabama and Mississippi, will they cease to exist?

  • pagansister

    It IS Alabama—–anyone surprised? I’ve lived there and not much surprises me when it comes to Alabama, or any southern U.S. state for that matter.


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