CULLMAN — Cullman County schools superintendent Billy Coleman has been at the center of a national controversy surrounding the annual “prayer caravan” that has been challenged by a Wisconsin-based atheist group. But it was Billy Coleman, the private citizen, who held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to fire back at the allegations.
Officially taking a day of leave from his role as superintendent, Coleman attempted to clarify some finer points about the prayer meeting and send a message to the Freedom From Religion Foundation that he has no plans to back down, despite the threat of a lawsuit.
“We live in a time when certain groups hide behind the human rights of some to destroy the human rights of others. The government agencies of Cullman County and Alabama respect the rights of people to believe what they choose and to freely express those beliefs,” Coleman said, while noting his long-time role as a local evangelist and affiliations with Christian organizations. “However, I also believe that we who are Christians have the same rights as anyone else to publicly express our beliefs on our own time ... We have, and will continue, to respond respectfully, but it would be a mistake to take our ‘kindred spirit’ for fear. We are not afraid, and we are not alone. We have the support of millions in America who are ready to take a stand with those of us in Cullman County.”
After the prayer caravan announcement was posted to the county schools’ web site, the FFRF demanded Coleman cancel the event claiming it was sponsored by the district. The posting has since been removed, and the board recently passed a resolution officially “detangling” itself from the caravan. On Tuesday, Coleman said he believes the event listing should be allowed regardless, as part of the system’s tradition of posting community events to the calendar.