Cullman County School District in Alabama Is the Site of Even More Violations of Church/State Separation

Just the other day, I posted about a “prayer caravan” organized by Cullman County Schools (Alabama) Superintendent Billy Coleman. The idea was that he would lead a group of people to all the schools in the district and pray… becauseI guess that raises test scores in Alabama or something. They’ve been doing this for a few years running.

Superintendent Billy Coleman

We also learned from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (PDF) that the caravan wasn’t the school’s only violation of the law:

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.

So why bring this all up again?

Because FFRF has learned that they’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violations of church/state separation in the district:

FFRF has received reports from at least seven local families about additional violations in area schools, mostly regarding unconstitutional prayers. FFRF has been informed the district schools lead recitations of the Lord’s prayer during the school day including over the loudspeaker system, have teacher-led prayer before lunch, at graduation ceremonies and according to one student “every school event… starts with a prayer.”

Cullman Country Schools often hold school events in churches rather than schools themselves. Coleman frequently schedules a student investment dinner and school meetings at various churches around the area.

The most disturbing information FFRF received regards West Point Elementary School. Every Tuesday, according to a complainant a preacher visits to proselytize. Teachers reportedly have told student their teachers “would be disappointed” if students chose not to listen to the preacher.

Now that people are learning that FFRF is looking at the district, they’re starting to come forward with even more damning pieces of information.

There’s no lawsuit yet, because that’s always a last resort. First, FFRF has requested a response from Coleman by next week. I can’t wait to hear how he tries to explain and get out of all this shit he’s dragged the district into…

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.

  • Lee Miller

    He hasn’t dragged the district into any shit. He’s honoring the law of God over the law of man. As any good righteous christian should do. Why can’t you just see that and shut up about it? Why do you have to make a fuss? We’s all Christians here anyways.

  • Sarah

    Are you joking, or have you not read the name of the blog?

  • 3lemenope

    I think the “we’s all” is a pretty big clue.

  • Michael

    Because the law of God says thou shalt not do this kind of thing?

    Someone will be along with a bible citation to where it says that, rest assured.

  • Scott__F

    The local TV news in Alabama presented it as if a bunch of churchesd were just driving past each school. They failed to mention that the Superintendent was organizing the caravan

  • onamission5

    Based on Lee’s posting history, I am going to go with choice #1: joking.

  • onamission5

    That’s quite the laundry list of violations. Why, it’s almost like they are actively going out of their way to shit all over the constitution.

  • Brian

    Someone needs to sit the Superintendent and School Board down, and explain the difference between PUBLIC schools and PRIVATE schools. How can they STILL not grasp the difference?

  • thfc1987

    I’m pretty sure, given your posting history, you’re joking. Tricky Lee.

  • TBJ

    Well Lee we’s ain’t all christians here, never have been all christians and getten’ less christian every day. Ah shoot Lee I dun fell for a Poe?

  • Beth

    People complain about Militant atheists, this is the kind of shit is the reason we need militant atheists.

  • TBJ

    Because they are denying that the cumulative effects of their actions are the cause of their ignorance.

  • RoverSerton

    wow Lee, either great snark or great stupidity. Either way, awesome dude!

  • Nichelle Wrenn

    From the Cullman County Schools website:

    posted Jul 17, 2013, 10:00 AM by Kim Arnold
    Institute will be on Tuesday, August 13th at Northbrook Church. The program will start at 8:30 a.m. with the doors opening at 7:30 a.m.

    Special Called Board Meeting
    posted Jul 29, 2013, 8:06 AM by Kim Arnold
    The Cullman County Board of Education will have a Special Called Board Meeting on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:15 p.m. at the Cullman County Board of Education, central office board room, 402 Arnold Street, Northeast, Cullman 35055 (no work session)

    Whatever could this be about?! Could those two points be related? FAIL.

  • edb3803

    So this is what a theocracy looks like …

  • MargueriteF

    Wow, even amidst the recent spate of constitutional violations, this one is spectacular. It’s like the county is Brigadoon, and it just emerged from the 1950s.

  • Holytape

    But it’s holy shit. So it’s good, right?

  • TBJ

    Another fine example of the the longest standing american tradition of denying the benefits of freedom to those who oppose your (christian) views.

  • TBJ

    not exactly, they still have yet to rally their pick-up trucks and form beat down gangs. One commenter on the news page did ask if someone would provide him with the names of the seven complainants, so he could drive them out of town “biblically.”

  • Compuholic

    He’s honoring the law of God over the law of man.

    Precisely. And since there obviously is a conflict between the two it follows that they are breaking the law.

    Btw: the Taliban have some very similar goals. They too honor the law of god over the law of the land (or even basic human decency for that matter).

  • Nate Frein

    The one thing I like about disqus is that it gives posters the option to allow people to see their posting history quickly to avoid confusion like this.

  • DrumminD21311

    Successful troll

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Indeed. I give him a nod of acknowledgment, if not approval. Ignore the smile.

  • edb3803

    That is scary.

  • Nate Frein

    I dunno. I read it as viciously sarcastic. But I could just be projecting. But he plays straight on enough of his posts that I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Unless they have their profile set to private. Disqus gives you that option now.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor


  • Nate Frein

    Well, yes. Which is why I figure that if a poster is open enough to leave their post history public, I should take the time to at least glance over their history before forming an opinion on them.

  • JWH

    I wish we could take Coleman and airdrop them into one of the outlying Hawaiian communities for about six months. I don’t expect anything particularly bad to happen to him; I would just like him to spend six months living in a community that follows Shintoism (as opposed to Christianity). Sometimes the experience can change a Christian’s perspective:

  • Mario Strada

    If these people ever get to power unchallenged and manage to establish this as a real christian nation, how long do you all think it would be before they organize the pickup trucks with the religious police, batons tar and feather and a nice thick rope?

    For some of these people what to us means “freedom from having to follow your religion” to them means “We do whatever the fuck we want, too bad we cannot lock all the atheists and gays in concentration camps.”

    I was the lucky winner of “Christian Nation” the book Hemant recently posted about in the blog. It was a frightening book. So scary that to take a break from it I had to watch a few minutes of “Texas chainsaw massacre”. Just to relax and not think about the horror of a true christian nation.

  • Lee Miller

    I love the word “viciously” and thank you for getting it right. Next time I need to start my post with “Please note: The following posting is from an atheist and is an attempt at sarcasm.”

  • Rooster Freebird
  • Buckley

    I think the page is satire, but the local reaction is not. It’s as though the page creator is just baiting them to say stupid shit.

  • Beth

    I grammar good! Doh!

  • Anna

    Thanks for the link! I hadn’t come across that story before. Who knew there might actually be something worth reading on World Net Daily?

  • JWH

    I have found one thing worth reading on World Net Daily.

  • Rich Wilson

    People need to check profiles more if they don’t recognize the person.

    (‘they’ should probably check to see if somebody else hasn’t already made the same point)

  • EvolutionKills

    I really like using – /sarcasm – to indicate whenever I’ve gone into full poe regalia. I didn’t catch it at first until I saw all of the other responses, then I switched my down vote over to a up vote. You fooled me, that at least is worth something. :D

  • UWIR

    The governor of my state, Jerry Brown, defended the Pledge of Allegiance on the basis that participation is voluntary; it’s illegal to coerce anyone into saying it, and no one ever does anything illegal. “Under no circumstances will his
    daughter be coerced into saying the pledge. The Supreme Court settled
    that long ago.”

    No, Mr. Brown, the Supreme Court hasn’t “settled” the issue, any more than they’ve “settled” the issue of racial discrimination. Atheists have been given a piece of paper saying that coercing them into religious exercises is illegal? Well, la-ti-fucking-da. That hasn’t “settled” the issue in Cullman County, or Cranston, RI, or anywhere else bigots insist on ignoring the Constitution.

  • Rain

    Aw shucks, he’s so reasonable when he says he doesn’t want to force his religion on anyone… as he advertizes his personal stumping religious rallies on the school system’s web pages. Presumably he’s also shocked that there are daily prayer shaming sessions going on.

  • Intelligent Donkey

    The law of god says “Do as I say, not as I do.”

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Argh, I also saw it as sarcasm, but communicated that badly. It just amused me how he played it so close but left a giveaway in there.

  • Rain

    We understand that an attempt to mask this illegal practice is made by giving students “the option” to participate.

    Yeah nothing sure beats “prayer shaming”. Except for “laying on of hands” shaming. That’s when fundy preachers never miss a chance “lay on of hands” to bigshot politicians. If the politician says to get their stinkin hands off of them, then the politician looks like a total jerk. The fundy preachers get to handle famous people, literally! And nobody can complain.

  • SeekerLancer

    Every time I hear about schools like this I wonder how many more exactly like it are out there that we haven’t discovered yet.

  • Sarah

    Now that I’ve realized that, I’ll check the post history before commenting :)

  • Elizabeth

    I went to Catholic school for 12 years and didn’t do that much praying!

  • eric

    Yeah I was thinking the same thing. I went to an Anglican-associated school for several years and we didn’t have that much religion.

  • Lauryn

    “I can’t wait to hear how he tries to explain and get out of all this shit he’s dragged the district into…” I also cannot wait!

    Of course I’m sure he’ll find ways of saying, “oh no, we DO pray and stuff but it’s not school endorsed prayer…” or “oh dear, we do allow a priest into our elementary school but it’s only during a voluntary lunch and teachers aren’t -really- telling kids they’ll shun them if they don’t participate…”

    This guy isn’t going to cancel the Prayer Caravan, I think. From fliers we’ve received VIA facebook groups I’m pretty sure Coleman will be there, smiling, telling everyone he’s praying for FFRF.

  • allein

    Sounds just like my mother ;)
    (The difference being, she didn’t start saying that until I was old enough to know better.)

  • skinnercitycyclist

    JWH, you are right, it bespeaks a lack of imagination or empathy (cannot have one without the other, IMO).

  • Former CC Teacher

    What a list. A false list. You people will fall for any lie that comes your way. I was a Cullman County teacher for many years until recently and I will tell you that you have been fooled into believing nothing but lies. This “laundry list” is absolutely not true. Suckers…

  • Former CC Teacher

    Sorry, minor correction. There have been some meetings at churches, but that is simply because those are practically the only places around here large enough to hold everyone. The churches are gracious enough to allow the use of their facilities as a meeting hall.

  • Rich Wilson

    Well then, there won’t be any problem in verifying that you’re right, and everyone coming forward is wrong. And the district will be vindicated and FFRF will be shown to be wrong.

    Discovering the truth can only be a good thing.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t support this prayer caravan at all, but I can assure you that most of those violations are false. I graduated from Hanceville High, which is in Cullman County, and the only thing on that list that has ever been done (to my knowledge) is prayer at graduation. There was a “moment of silence” over the intercom every morning, but not a prayer, and I’ve never heard any teacher pray out loud at school, especially not at lunch.

  • Amanda

    To hear all of these comments saddens me. I am a Christian, and I will pray for you to come to Christ.

  • Cindy Navarro

    The August 13th meeting is the annual meeting held for teachers and school admins. They meet in the atrium, not the sanctuary, of Northbrook Church because it has the seating capacity to accommodate the crowd and is not being used for other purposes that day.

    The Special Called Board meeting is for less than a dozen people who can easily meet in the conference room of the BEA.

    I seriously doubt the BEA called a special meeting over a regularly scheduled meeting.