SCHOOL PRAYER DEBATE TO RESUME ON OPRAH
By Monique Harrison
PONTOTOC – Key players on both sides of the school prayer debate are reportedly in Chicago this morning taping an Oprah Winfrey Show set to run March 19.
Pontotoc County Citizens for School Prayer Committee President Pat Mounce, Victory Baptist Church’s Rev. Doug Jones and attorney Michael Whitehead are expected to appear on the show, detailing the rationale behind their stand for student-led public school prayer.
Lisa Herdahl and at least one of her five school-age children are expected to appear on the popular talk show, which airs on Tupelo’s Comcast Cablevision at 4 p.m. on WTVA-Channel 6 and WMC-Channel 5. One of Herdahl’s lawyers is also expected to participate in the debate, which is taped before an audience.
Herdahl, the Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way filed a lawsuit against Pontotoc County Schools in the winter of 1994, after Herdahl’s children were allegedly ridiculed for refusing to participate in religious activities that have been routine for years at North Pontotoc Attendance Center, which serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The case, which will be heard in federal district court on March 4, challenges student-led prayer and elective Bible study classes that are taught at the school.
On Monday, a routine request for summary judgment was denied in federal court in Oxford.
If the summary judgment had been granted, the case would have been dismissed and the prayers and Bible studies that were halted by a preliminary injunction issued this spring would resume.
Supporters of the Ecru school’s stand are calling the denial of summary judgment a victory in disguise, saying they want their day in court.