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Tenn. school board to retrain staff on church-state separation after pastor gives 9/11 speech

- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Hamilton County Board of Education in Tennessee will retrain its teachers on the separation of church and state after a local pastor gave a speech on Sept. 11 at a Sale Creek public school.

Rechoboth Baptist Church Pastor Alan Stewart mentioned God six times and one Bible verse in his speech, hoping to inspire students in remembrance of that horrific day, a local television station reported.

"Did I mention god in the speech that day, I sure did," he told WRCB-TV. "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 Freedom From Religion Foundation then wrote a letter to the school board calling the pastor's speech "divisive and isolating" and a "serious concern."

"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," wrote the foundation's lawyer, Andrew Seidel, according to WRCB-TV.

The school board said it has retrained educators about keeping religion separate from school matters.

"I would have never dreamed since I was a little boy, I would be told in my country that I can't pray," Mr. Stewart said. "I can't mention God."

A spokesperson from the foundation said they were pleased with the school system's response to retrain educators, WRCB-TV reported.

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