Alabama protesters call for school prayer
November 27, 1997
Web posted at: 8:10 p.m. EST (0110 GMT)
RAINSVILLE, Alabama (CNN) -- Hundreds of protesters took to
the streets of Rainsville, Alabama, on Thanksgiving Day to
plead for the return of prayer in public schools.
The march was in reaction to a decision last month by U.S.
District Court Judge Ira DeMent, who ordered an end to
school-sponsored religious activities, such as prayers during
morning announcements and at school events.
While DeMent's ruling came from a case originating in DeKalb
County, in Alabama's northeast corner, it is now considered a
legal standard that applies to the whole state. And that
doesn't sit well with many people here who believe DeMent's
decision tramples on their freedom of religion -- and that,
because it isn't forced on students, school prayer is
"It's God's will that this nation that was founded as a
nation under God would once again become one nation under
God, and that we would put God back at the center, not only
of our schools, but at the center of our society," says John
Holkem, a school prayer supporter.
DeMent's ruling was the latest in a string of controversial
decisions on church-state separation issues in northeast
A judge in Gadsden, Roy Moore, has been ordered to stop
conducting prayers in his courtroom and displaying the Ten
Commandments. That led Alabama Gov. Fob James, a supporter of
prayer in public schools, to vow to use state troopers, if
necessary, to allow Moore to continue the prayers.
In March, DeMent struck down a law that required schools to
allow voluntary student-initiated prayers at school events,
saying it created excessive state entanglement in religion.
In November, nearly 60 middle school students were suspended
for two days in Albertville after they walked out of class
and marched on City Hall to protest DeMent's ruling.
Where the protest movement will go next is uncertain, given
that recent court rulings have gone against the protesters'
position. But opponents of DeMent's rulings say they have the
power of protest -- and the power of prayer.
Correspondent Brian Cabell contributed to this report.