Pastor David Cooper - New Life Ministries Church - Maryville
Pictures By: PAT HUNTER
BY: PAT HUNTER
The Historic Loudon Courthouse lawn was the scene of Thursday's gathering.
Men, women, and children of all ages came to show support for religion, and prayer in school.
Some came by the bus load at the urging of their pastors. Other people wore church tee shirts, and some carried signs.
The crowd was estimated between three to five hundred.
Pastor David Cooper with New Life Ministries Church, Maryville was the lead speaker.
The press was in attendance including the Knoxville News Sentinel, and all three Knoxville TV stations.
Politicians attending the event included Lenoir City Councilman Harry Wampler, and Eddie Simpson, and Lenoir City School Board member Glen McNish.
The gathering lasted over one-hour; cars, and church buses lined the roads nearby the Old Courthouse.
The crowd gathered to hear Pastor Cooper's sermon and the meeting ended with a prayer, and singing of Amazing Grace.
Lenoir City has been in the heart of controversy after a series of articles appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel about Krystal Myers,
editor of the school paper at Lenoir City High School. School administrators made the decision not to print her editorial "No Rights: The Life of an Atheist"
because of the potential for disruption in the school.
The Lenoir City Board of Education ceased praying at the March board meeting; conversely, Loudon County school director Jason Vance
has continued the practice of opening workshops, and school board meetings with the recital of prayer. Nashville based attorney Chuck Cagle representing both
school systems, and boards is supposed to respond in writing about this matter.
The Lenoir City Police Department also came under scrutiny over the word "religion" on police uniform patches after a letter was sent on January 19, 2012
by the Freedom from Religion Foundation located in Wisconsin. The letter asked for a prompt reply however, it would take over two-months before
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens, and Council responded.
Loudon Historic Courthouse Crowd gathers to hear preacher, and pray
PICTURES BY PAT HUNTER - THE HUNTER REPORT
By Hugh G. Willett
Thursday, March 29, 2012
LOUDON — Hundreds of Loudon County men, women and children gathered on the county's courthouse lawn Thursday to pray in support of religion in their community.
Almost an hour before the event started, children wandered across the grass holding signs that read "He stood for us. We stand for him." An older man with a baseball cap that read "Jesus is my Boss" stood next to the World War II veterans monument.
Toby Brewster, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Lenoir City, sat with her grandson and watched the crowd gather from a fountain overlooking the courthouse. She said her minister had urged her and other church members to attend.
"We want to let our elected officials know that we are behind prayer in the schools," she said.
Becky O'Dell of Loudon wore a sign that declared: "It's freedom of religion not freedom from religion," a reference to the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation that began challenging Lenoir City and its prayer in schools policy after the News Sentinel profiled a high school senior whose column — titled "No Rights: The Life of an Atheist" — was not allowed to run in the school newspaper.
Secular groups have since alleged that the Lenoir City school board violated the constitution by allowing, among other things, prayer before its meetings and football games. The city's police department was similarly accused over the word "religion" on patches worn by its officers.
While the school board announced it would cease such prayers, Lenoir City Mayor Aikens said Monday the city has no plans to remove the patches.
A number of county and local government officials were in attendance at Thursday's event, including Loudon County Mayor Estelle Herron, several county commissioners, some Lenoir City Council members and members of the Loudon County school board. Some of the Lenoir City officials said they could not talk because of fears of pending litigation.
State Reps. Jimmy Matlock and Julia Hurley, both Lenoir City Republicans, also attended. Hurley said she was impressed with the turnout.
"All these people showed up to let their local officials know how important religion and prayer is to their community," she said.
The crowd, which grew to well over 500 by the time the program started, cheered event organizer James Raucci as he explained why the event was held.
"What we've seen in the last week is an attack on religion," he said "I'm tired of seeing things like this happen."
Raucci challenged the secular organizations that have been targeting Lenoir City and urged local officials not to back down to threats of lawsuits.
"No organization has enough money to sue everybody who believes in God," he said.
Pastor David Cooper of the New Life Ministries Church was the featured speaker at the event. He urged the more than a dozen other pastors in the audience to join him at the front of the crowd.
"It's time to be bold. We have to learn to agree that we will not be pushed around" Cooper said.
As the program continued, the atmosphere took on the air of a "revival" as the crowd urged Cooper on with spontaneous shouts of "Amen" and "Praise Jesus."
"We can't let them take prayer away from our children," Cooper said as the crowd erupted in cheers.