An Alabama school superintendent has drawn the ire of a constitutional advocacy foundation after planning a prayer caravan the group says violates separation of church and state.
Cullman County School District officials are planning to travel in August to district schools for a 10- to 15-minute prayer stop at each, according to Alabama Media Group. But the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a group dedicated to promoting the separation of church and state, has responded with a strongly worded letter to the district, encouraging it to cancel the event.
“We understand that an attempt to mask this illegal practice is made by giving students ‘the option’ to participate,” reads the letter. “Both the ‘Prayer Caravan’ and recitation of the 'Lord’s Prayer' are illegal.”
The letter asks Superintendent Billy Coleman to immediately cancel the caravan and any similar events in the future, but Coleman has said he has no such plans. He has organized the caravan for the past several years, and said it is not illegal because it was not voted on by the school board.
"I'm not ashamed one bit of it. I'm a Christian," Coleman told WAFF-TV. "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."
While the caravan was initially announced on the school’s website, according to WAFF, details have since been removed.
Andrew Seidel, a lawyer for the FFRF, told The Huffington Post that it does not yet have plans to sue the district but that he fears Coleman does not understand the illegality of the prayer caravan.
“Our preference is always to work with school districts,” Seidel told HuffPost over the phone. "A lot of times, they don’t understand the law and why what they’re doing is wrong.”
“It sounds like the superintendent for some reason believes that this is not a school-sponsored event, even though he, as superintendent, posted it on the school’s website and planned it,” said Seidel. “In this case, the only purpose of the event is religious, which is highly suspect.”
FFRF nearly sued a nearby Alabama city in 2012, for opening its city council meetings with a prayer, notes the Alabama Media Network. The Huntsville City Council now has a roster of interfaith leaders to deliver the invocation.
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