School prayer rally forced to change location after threat of lawsuit

School prayer rally forced to change location after threat of lawsuit

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Every year for the past decade, an annual prayer service has taken place at an Ocean Springs school days before the first school bell rings.

"It grew into a community-wide effort, and we meet every year around this time. We usually meet at one of our schools, and the local ministers gather together and pray. It's been productive, and it's a great time for our community, and we love it," said the Rev. Mike Barnett, of First Baptist Church.

This year's surroundings look totally different because of backlash from an organization known as the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

"This year, we've moved the prayer rally to here at First Baptist. We're hosting this community and prayer event, because the school board was served with papers threatening a lawsuit or action if we held this prayer meeting at the school," said Barnett.

Parents say the change may have been a hassle, but it won't change things.

"Praying is not necessarily about a location. It's about our heart and what we desire for our community. We just want schools to know that we love them and we support them, and anything that we can do for them to encourage them and help them do their job better. It's not about getting religion into the schools. It's about letting the schools know that we love them," said Ocean Springs resident and father Jason Heath.

"We're not concerned with where we pray or where we ask God for these blessings and this safety. We want God to answer, so we're going to ask him here, but he's going to answer at the school, and they can't stop that. Nobody can stop that," said Barnett.

Community members say there's a possibility they will try and get the annual prayer rally back into schools. However, if they're unsuccessful, they'll continue to hold the annual rallies at local churches.

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