published Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Hundreds participate in Cullman prayer caravan

CULLMAN, Ala. — Hundreds of people traveled from school to school in Cullman County on Saturday offering prayers for the new school year.

The annual prayer caravan began three years ago with 10 to 15 people participating at each school. Saturday’s caravan swelled in size after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation tried to get it canceled.

“All denominations are here, and this has caused everyone to pull together more than ever before,” said Jack Collins, director of missions for the Cullman Baptist Association.

About 300 people prayed in front of Garden City Elementary School during a stop Saturday morning.

“As a Christian, I think we need to stand up for this,” Brenda Carter of Hanceville told the Cullman Times.“The schools need prayer, the teachers need prayer, students need prayer and the nation needs prayer,” she said.

Cullman County School Superintendent Billy Coleman said he started the caravan as a private citizen apart from his school duties. The county school board recently passed a resolution absolving it of any involvement.

During a stop at Hanceville High School, Coleman said, “I just feel blessed to be a participant and be part of something so uplifting.”

Andrew Seidel, an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote a letter to Coleman on July 22 telling him that the prayer caravan was an unconstitutional government sponsorship of religion. The group said the event would alienate nonreligious members of the Cullman County schools community and inject religion into what should be a secular public school system.

Gov. Robert Bentley visited Cullman on Thursday and voiced support for the prayer caravan.

“I personally believe that one of the problems we have in this country is taking God out of, not only our lives, but out of government. But, we can’t force that on someone. That’s what the Constitution says. We cannot force that on people. But, people have the right to express their opinions on their beliefs. And I do it all the time. Nobody’s put me in jail yet,” Bentley said.

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