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August 5, 2013

Coleman sets press conference to address ‘prayer caravan’ accusations

Will tackle separation of church and state allegations

After being inundated with media requests in recent weeks following an atheist group’s allegations that the Cullman County school system is breaking laws separating church and state, Superintendent Billy Coleman has scheduled a press conference to address the claims. Most complaints revolve around a day of prayer set for Aug. 10, dubbed the prayer caravan.

Coleman will address the media on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Charter Business Room at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce office in downtown. The stated purpose of the event is to “address allegations against a prayer caravan for local schools.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), based in Wisconsin, is demanding Coleman cancel the event because he initially used the school website to promote it, which they say breaches laws separating church and state. The group is also upset with his general involvement, since he holds office within the district.

The school board has since passed a resolution meant to clarify and officially separate itself from the caravan, though FFRF officials say they will not be satisfied unless the prayer event is cancelled by Coleman. At this point, the event is still set to move forward and Coleman has said he has no plans to cancel.

In the weeks that followed the group’s initial complaint about the prayer caravan, the FFRF sent a second letter making several additional allegations against the school system, including reports of teacher-led prayer in classes, hosting system events at churches, and illegal prayer at school events (i.e. prom, sporting events, etc.).

Coleman said he plans to address many of the FFRF’s allegations that have been made in recent weeks during the press conference, while also speaking more broadly about the situation as a whole.

 Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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