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Atheist want to stop prayer caravan in Cullman, AL


RosyDaisy
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The caravan is a multi-site prayer gathering where various Christians from the community travel to every school in the district the Saturday before teachers arrive for the new academic year, and then pray on campus for approximately 10-15 minutes. It is described as “a time to lift up [Cullman County's] schools to God and ask His blessings for the upcoming school year.â€

 

FFRF explained to Coleman that it had been “contacted by several residents†who complained about the planned event, but did not provide the names of the complainants.

 

“The ‘Prayer Caravan’ event is an especially egregious violation [of the Constitution's Establishment Clause],†the letter stated. “The event is school-sponsored and school promoted. Indeed you, as superintendent, are promoting the religious ritual. It does not matter that this event occurs outside normal school hours…â€

 

However, Coleman told local television station WIAT that while he did post information about the upcoming caravan on the Cullman County School District website, the event is not sponsored by the district and is therefore lawful.

 

“This is not something the board voted on,†he advised. “It is just something I started.â€

 

 

This makes me ill. Where was this "caravan" when tornadoes nearly wiped Cullman and other towns in AL off the map in April 2011? You stupid assholes want a prayer caravan, but you won't come to Cullman to help after a natural disaster. I hope they succeed in blocking the caravan from doing their thing on school property. Why not host the even in your own backyard Sup. Coleman? Why won't some good Christian from the area open up property for this event? Sup. Coleman, you have an agenda as do most school systems in AL!

 

Anyway, full article can be found here:

christiannews.net/2013/07/27/alabama-school-superintendent-to-defy-atheist-demands-to-cancel-prayer-caravan-event/

Edited by OnceUponATime
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Would you feel the same way if the Muslims stopped by and offered up a prayer to the school? Would you tell the stupid assholes to organize that shit in their own yard because it makes you ill?

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This is a complicated one. If the group is allowed inside the school buildings by school personnel, then a line is potentially crossed. If they are merely praying on the grounds, then they cannot be stopped as public schools are public property and there would not be a compelling reason to ban them from the grounds if school is not in session and they are not causing harm to the property.

The problematic issue of the event being posted on the district website has been resolved by the superintendent removing it which takes away any perceived endorsement by the district.

We have to always remember that these types of issues are always a tension between the free exercise of religion and government establishment of religion. I think a court would fall on the side of free exercise here IF the district refrains from posting it or distributing information about it, the group prays when school is not in session, and does not have access inside the buildings.

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Something similar happened in my high school, but it only involved students. There was a group of about 10 students who used to go into the school early on certain days to pray over the school. I knew a couple of people in that group. During my sophomore year of high school, my art teacher was giving short ceramics tutorials before school. I went to one of those tutorials which started an hour before school. One of the days I went, I saw the prayer group walking around with Bibles and prayer books and they would stop at different locker sections and say short prayers.

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This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. That is my issue with this. To answer, your question, yes, any religious group that is allowed to hold an event on school grounds would make me ill for the simple fact that it should not occur on school property. It has nothing to do with the religious beliefs of the group. Keep in mind Alabama has the nickname Talibama for a reason. They are trying to force feed fundamentalist Christianity down everyone's throats by pulling stunts like this.

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The trouble with the world is that there are some people of all faiths, and people of no faith, who have zero religious tolerance. My motto is this: If they're not preaching hate towards another person, physically or emotionally hurting children, or bringing down women, then leave them alone and let them pray.

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This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. That is my issue with this. To answer, your question, yes, any religious group that is allowed to hold an event on school grounds would make me ill for the simple fact that it should not occur on school property. It has nothing to do with the religious beliefs of the group. Keep in mind Alabama has the nickname Talibama for a reason. They are trying to force feed fundamentalist Christianity down everyone's throats by pulling stunts like this.

Lighten up. It's no big deal. When one of my kids graduated, there was a prayer by a priest, minister, rabbi, and a shaikh. It was cool. I'm in the Northeast in one of the "no one gives a shit what you do" states. Personally, I always wanted my kids to be exposed to other faiths. It makes them well rounded and accepting of people. And one thing I have to say about my kids. They are a very accepting bunch.

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This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. That is my issue with this. To answer, your question, yes, any religious group that is allowed to hold an event on school grounds would make me ill for the simple fact that it should not occur on school property. It has nothing to do with the religious beliefs of the group. Keep in mind Alabama has the nickname Talibama for a reason. They are trying to force feed fundamentalist Christianity down everyone's throats by pulling stunts like this.

No, it is not a clear violation of separation. Again, the key in these situations is keeping a balance between the two key religion clauses in the First Amendment which are free exercise and the banning of government establishment. The phrase "separation of church and state" refers to the government not establishing by any means, coercive or otherwise, preeminence of any one religion or any religion at all. So if this were to go to court, there would be two key questions: 1--Does banning the prayer caravan violate the free exercise of religion for those involved? 2--Does the prayer caravan accessing school property constitute the school district establishing religion?

Given the information in the article, the answers would likely be:

1--Yes.

2--No.

Qualifications on those answers: 1--The courts have routinely upheld the rights of religious groups to use public schools for religious purposes provided such use does not occur during school hours, students are in no way compelled to be involved and school personnel does not facilitate the activity. So...a prayer caravan held on school grounds when students are not present and without school personnel involved in providing access to the building would likely be allowed and even protected as the free exercise of religion of those involved.

2--The district would have to continue to not in any way endorse or appear to endorse the event in any public forum (such as the website, mailings, etc...), and school personnel could not be involved in any official capacity nor could students be on campus in any official capacity (the event could not occur when school is in session).

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No, it is not a clear violation of separation. Again, the key in these situations is keeping a balance between the two key religion clauses in the First Amendment which are free exercise and the banning of government establishment. The phrase "separation of church and state" refers to the government not establishing by any means, coercive or otherwise, preeminence of any one religion or any religion at all. So if this were to go to court, there would be two key questions: 1--Does banning the prayer caravan violate the free exercise of religion for those involved? 2--Does the prayer caravan accessing school property constitute the school district establishing religion?

Given the information in the article, the answers would likely be:

1--Yes.

2--No.

Qualifications on those answers: 1--The courts have routinely upheld the rights of religious groups to use public schools for religious purposes provided such use does not occur during school hours, students are in no way compelled to be involved and school personnel does not facilitate the activity. So...a prayer caravan held on school grounds when students are not present and without school personnel involved in providing access to the building would likely be allowed and even protected as the free exercise of religion of those involved.

2--The district would have to continue to not in any way endorse or appear to endorse the event in any public forum (such as the website, mailings, etc...), and school personnel could not be involved in any official capacity nor could students be on campus in any official capacity (the event could not occur when school is in session).

Very good post. One of the schools that my kids went to had all kinds of student led religious groups which were held after school.

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What bothers me about this is that the school district's superintendent is the person who organised this. He didn't act in his official capacity, but even so it seems very religiously intrusive. It'd be different if it was a multifaith prayer caravan, or organised by people not employed by the school district, but as it is he is implicitly saying the school district favours Christianity.

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What bothers me about this is that the school district's superintendent is the person who organised this. He didn't act in his official capacity, but even so it seems very religiously intrusive. It'd be different if it was a multifaith prayer caravan, or organised by people not employed by the school district, but as it is he is implicitly saying the school district favours Christianity.

I think that's the factor that bothers me, too. I don't believe it's a violation of separation, but having "the boss of all local public schools" come out with a public endorsement of a particular faith could create an ongoing uncomfortable working atmosphere for faculty, staff, and students of a different (or no) faith. IDK, maybe it's not such a big deal for the day-to-day lives of his subordinates and students, but I think it would be a little disquieting for me in that position. This guy is supposed to be an educational leader, not a religious leader.

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And if it were challenged in court, the superintendent would likely do well to step away from the entire event, but he could not legally be barred from participating in a private capacity. Note that he has already agreed to remove it from the district's website likely because that could easily make it a violation of the establishment clause.

It is a very fine line to protect the rights of teachers and school personnel to practice religious faith without allowing them to engage in activity that constitutes establishment. However, teachers who are religious (Christian or otherwise) have the right to the free exercise of their faiths. What they cannot do is impose it on or compel students to join them. Their rights to free exercise outside the classroom are extremely important, though. And if we agree to infringe on that, then (IMO) we would no longer have the right to be upset if teachers who do not profess religious faith are also discriminated against for actions outside the classroom.

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And if it were challenged in court, the superintendent would likely do well to step away from the entire event, but he could not legally be barred from participating in a private capacity. Note that he has already agreed to remove it from the district's website likely because that could easily make it a violation of the establishment clause.

It is a very fine line to protect the rights of teachers and school personnel to practice religious faith without allowing them to engage in activity that constitutes establishment. However, teachers who are religious (Christian or otherwise) have the right to the free exercise of their faiths. What they cannot do is impose it on or compel students to join them. Their rights to free exercise outside the classroom are extremely important, though. And if we agree to infringe on that, then (IMO) we would no longer have the right to be upset if teachers who do not profess religious faith are also discriminated against for actions outside the classroom.

Oh, I totally agree, but I think there is a difference between going to church on Sunday and taking his religion onto school grounds for school-related purposes (albeit outside of school hours). I wouldn't have a problem if his church happened to rent out one of the school gyms on Sundays because their old stone building wasn't big enough, or he was praying for the schools with his Bible study group, or if he arranged a prayer event that had nothing to do with education. Nor would I have a problem with it if this were a group of parents, unaffiliated with the schools save through their children, or if it was a non-faith-specific good wishes/prayers event that anyone, from any religious background (even non-religious), would feel welcome at.

It's not any one thing, but a combination thereof: he's in a position of authority in the schools, and should therefore be officially non-partisan; this is an event happening on school grounds (did they need to get permission? If so, did he grant it? Would he grant it to a Jewish or Wiccan or atheist group?); it's an event for one particular religious group rather than people from any religious background; and it is an event explicitly linked to the schools. All of this combined means that the school district is being associated with Christianity (probably Protestantism), which at best makes staff and students from other religious backgrounds uncomfortable and at worst makes them a target.

Like you said, it's a fine line, but I think he's dancing close to it. ETA: I'm not saying he should be barred, but just because what he's doing is his legal right doesn't mean I agree with his choice.

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But it is on a Saturday, when school is not in session yet. Meaning, it is completely voluntary and no one is being forced to attend. The constitution provides freedom FROM religion and that the state can't impose a religion. It doesn't say no praying can be done on school grounds. Please, stop giving the tea party ammunition. They really, truly believe that children are being barred from praying at school, and this helps them believe that.

ETA: The atheists are also griping about a Holocaust Museum on city property in Ohio using a Star of David. Please. Just. Chill.

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I'm not contesting that he has the right, merely disagreeing with the way he's chosen to exercise it. It's not illegal, but it displays a lack of sensitivity for the religious diversity of the community.

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Would you feel the same way if the Muslims stopped by and offered up a prayer to the school? Would you tell the stupid assholes to organize that shit in their own yard because it makes you ill?

What is that? What is up with the Christian assumption that atheists just lurve Muslims and hate Christians and we're just big mean meanies singing kumbaya with Satanists and Muslims and plotting the overthrow of Christianity?

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ETA: The atheists are also griping about a Holocaust Museum on city property in Ohio using a Star of David. Please. Just. Chill.

Atheists are not a monolithic entity the same way no other group is a monolithic entity. "The atheists" don't believe in god. Beyond that, don't make generalizations.

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I am on the edge of atheism and my fiance is a full fledged atheist. I apologize for not researching the exact group who is doing the legal action and no offense was intended.

It's the "Freedom From Religion Foundation", a "group of non-believers". Not to mince words, but are they not atheists? I am not trying to be argumentative, but should I have phrased it as "a secular group" or "a group of atheists"

Here's the letter, in any case. My point was to not waste energy on these things and wait until something real happens, like your kid is forced to pray in a public school. This seems pretty ignorant of history, to be honest. It's mostly privately funded, and the Star of David was ALSO used to separate Jews from the rest of the population. It's more than a "religious symbol." Blame it on the Nazis.

http://ffrf.org/images/Ohio%20Statehous ... morial.pdf

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Would he grant it to a Jewish or Wiccan or atheist group?

No...hell would freeze over first. In fact, I can practically guarantee that the the whole city if not the whole state of Alabama would go out of their way to bar any other religious group from doing the same thing.

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No...hell would freeze over first. In fact, I can practically guarantee that the the whole city if not the whole state of Alabama would go out of their way to bar any other religious group from doing the same thing.

But the bad news for all of them would be that since they are allowing a Christian group to do it, any court would rule that they would have to give equal access to other religious groups.

I have been to Alabama, though, my educated guess is that in this seemingly non-urban district, no other religious group is large enough to gather a group and attempt any action. I know that religious diversity was not an issue where my nephew went to school. He considered Catholics an oddity before he moved back to the Midwest.

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When I was in school (south of France, with a mayor communist or socialist since 1945, in a very atheist area), we were not allowed to wear cross, or veil, or kippa, or Che Guevara, or Nazi's Cross (what is forbidden everywhere), or anything who shows our religion or our politics ideas (because there was a "war" between sort of neonazis and antifascist group - I broke my arm in this, haha.) It was so... good. School was a place of neutrality, and it was good because we were very... herm... teenager. Can't imagine the number of conflict if this type of caravan were in the school. Or if a teacher say one day he was christian or socialist, etc...

I guess it's different for you because you are a Christian country, and you're more open-minded thant here (not difficult :roll: ) but, it surprised me every time i read something like that about school and religion. When our American correspondent were in school (2007, 2008 and 2009), they said that "well, no, school in America is very secular, teacher don't speak about God or whatever, it's like your school !". They come from Floride.

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A group of Christians, Muslims, Wiccans or whatever coming round to the school to do a little blessing actually sounds quite sweet to me.

What I do object to is that a travelling bus of evangelists parks regularly on the grounds of my kids' state-run schools - schools which are not religiously affiliated - to try to convert the kids. The school invite them in and parents don't even get told it's happening let alone asked if we think it's a good idea. This is the UK so there's nothing to stop it happening.

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