Tennessee Pastor Alan Stewart refuses to apologize for 9/11 speech at school, Freedom From Religion responds
A Tennessee pastor spoke for seven minutes during an optional public school event remembering 9/11 and his appearance has sparked a formal complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
“Did I mention God in the speech that day?” Stewart admits to WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, which reports it viewed a transcript of his speech. “I sure did.”
A parent reportedly complained which prompted a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation who targeted the school’s decision to let the pastor speak to students and his very presence in the school “divisive and isolating” and “a serious concern.”
Stewart says he focused more on the story of 9/11 than religion’s role. “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,” Stewart tells WRCB. “Some good things happened that day.”
Andrew Siedel from the FFRF says Stewart quoted numerous scriptures from the Bible and therefore was essentially preaching.
Stewart doesn’t see it that way.
“It was a day in American history that our people came together and prayed across the land,” he tells WDEF. “They prayed not only in churches, they prayed in the marketplace, street corners and civil governments. No one should be coerced to pray, and no one should be forbidden to pray. That’s what our founding fathers stood for, and that’s what the Constitution and all the amendments have stood for, for all these years.”
Stewart tells WRCB that religion has been part of the local community since its foundation. “In the last 20 years of my life I have watched the voice of respect of the church diminish,” Stewart adds. “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.”
Seidel is unmoved, telling WRCB: “It may be ingrained in the community but the Constitution prohibits religion from being in the schools.”