Local pastor, school system under fire for 9/11 speech
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
Rechoboth Baptist Church pastor, Alan Stewart, was trying to inspire students during a 9/11 speech at Sale Creek Middle-High School.
"Did I mention god in the speech that day, I sure did," he says.
That speech has him and the Hamilton County Board of Education in the cross-hairs of a national group that works against that sort of thing.
In the transcript of his 7-minute speech he mentions one bible verse and the word "God" six times.
Weeks later the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to the school board calling Stewart's speech a "serious concern".
The letter claims someone at the school complained.
Stewart says, "I could have talked about the tragedy that day. I could have talked about the terror it sent through the world that day but wanted to focus on the triumphs. Some good things happened that day."
The foundation's lawyer, Andrew Seidel, wrote in the letter that there were numerous quotations from the bible.
The letter went on to say having Stewart there was "divisive and isolating."
"Inviting a pastor in the first place should have been a red flag for the school. Pastors only speak about religious issues for the most part," Seidel says.
"In the last 20 years of my life I have watched the voice of respect of the church diminish," says Stewart
Stewart responded to the letter himself saying religion has been a part of this area's community since it began.
"It may be ingrained in the community but the constitution prohibits religion from being in the schools," Seidel says.
After the letter, the school system says it has retrained educators about keeping those separate.
Stewart says, "I would have never dreamed since I was a little boy, I would be told in my country that I can't pray. I can't mention God."
A spokesperson from The Freedom From Religion Foundation says they are pleased with the school systems response to train educators.
Wednesday, July 23 2014 3:08 AM EDT2014-07-23 07:08:02 GMT
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