Public School Superintendent: ‘Prayer is Very Much a Part of School’

Last week, we learned that Cullman County Schools (Alabama) Superintendent Billy Coleman was planning his third annual “Prayer Caravan” in which he visits the schools in his district and prays for them. Because I guess that’s the only option left for raising kids’ test scores.

Superintendent Billy Coleman

If he did this as a private citizen, it wouldn’t be a problem.

But that’s not the case at all. An announcement of the Caravan was posted on the school’s website:

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 posted on the district’s Facebook page, too.

After the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Coleman a letter (PDF) telling him to put a stop to the proselytizing, the district removed all of those references, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were there.

Yesterday, Coleman held a press conference to talk about the controversy:

You can read a full transcript here.

At the 18:22 mark, during the Q&A session, Coleman remarked:

“I think that what people may not realize in this country is prayer is very much a part of school.”

He went on to say that the prayers had to occur within the confines of the law, and that he respected church/state separation, but his actions clearly show otherwise. He seems like a decent guy trying to do the right thing in the video, but he just doesn’t get it.

So what about the Caravan? Will that still go on this Saturday as planned?

Absolutely, Coleman said:

“It’s going on,” Coleman said. “I’m certainly not going to call it off.”

He emphasized that the event is privately organized and not sponsored by the Cullman County School system, despite his involvement.

That’s a complete lie. If it was privately organized, the school never would have promoted it on their website or social media networks.

Coleman isn’t organizing and promoting this event as “Billy Coleman, Random Citizen.” He’s organizing it as “Billy Coleman, Superintendent.”

Here’s something I received from a reader yesterday: A flyer endorsing the event:

Even though whoever made the flyer is obviously aware of FFRF’s complaint, s/he still promotes it as Superintendent Billy Coleman’s event.

Any reasonable person looking at all of this evidence would conclude that this is a school-sponsored event.

Judges will recognize that, too.

In order to get a lawsuit going, though, we need a plaintiff. If anyone reading this has a child in the district and is willing to stand up to this breach of church/state separation, please contact me.

Remember: This would have been a non-issue if Coleman didn’t use school resources to promote the religious event. But he doesn’t give a damn what the law says because he thinks his religion can supersede all of that.

Don’t let him get away with it.

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.


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