Large crowd gathers to support principal accused of violating First Amendment

Large crowd gathers to support principal accused of violating First Amendment

KEITHVILLE, LA (KSLA) - A large crowd gathered at Grawood Baptist Church in Keithville  Friday to support the Caddo principal accused of violating the First Amendment.

"I appreciate everybody coming out this morning to support my father and to support the reason why we're here- Jesus Christ- and what he's done for us," said Kelvin Hardison, the son of Walnut Hill Elementary/ Middle School principal Albert Hardison.

Referencing the Bible verse his father included on a newsletter that caused the uproar and American Civil Liberties Union complaint, Kelvin Hardison said he wanted to make sure everyone knows that "we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us."

"I've beyond touched. I'm very emotional right now," he said to a cheering crowd at the prayer rally. "I'm doing everything right now to stop from crying because all of the support that I see here for him and for our Lord."

By some estimates, nearly 1,200 people came out for the rally.Pastor Jimmy Clark with Sycamore Life Ministries and Outreach said Albert Hardison mentored him and his children.

"I know so many people he touched and ministered to," said Clark, a graduate of Walnut Hill.  And parent Trivia Demouy described how Hardison is an inspiration to others:  "It's because of Mr. Hardison's beliefs and what he teaches that our kids soar.  That they're on the same level as those students at magnet schools."

Clark said Hardison did not attend the event, because he didn't want to take away from it.

"He just wanted you guys to have a time to support not only him, but he wanted you to support what he's about- about the God that he loves and the Jesus that he supports," he added.

Principal Hardison included a reference to Philippians 4:13 in the March newsletter that went to parents and staff.

Hundreds have posted on the

, with most saying how he's a great principal. The page, created Tuesday, has more than 6,600 likes.

Local businesses are also supporting Hardison. Time-It Lube locations have identical messages on their signs, saying, "Thanks Albert Hardison. May God bless you."

A supporter posted a video of Summer Grove AutoCare's sign, which read, "God Bless Mr. Hardison!"

In an open letter from ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman to Caddo Schools Superintendent Dr. Lamar Goree, the ACLU said Walnut Hill "has engaged in a pattern of religious proselytization by sending messages to parents invoking prayer, and through a lengthy 'Principal's Message' on the school's web site."

Caddo Parish Public Schools launched an internal investigation into the matter, according to a statement released, and removed all questionable material from district web sites.

The ACLU and those opposing Hardison's message in the newsletter say that his "religious coercion" is illegal.

But some ask a potentially prickly question about religion and public education, like what happens when a principal decides to use a quote from the Koran, instead of the Bible.  Pastor Clark answered, "You know what, this is the world.  And that's going to happen."

Clark continued, "If you don't like something that school gives out then you need to tear it up and throw it away.  But at the same time if we have regulations, regulations have to go on everybody."

But Clark concluded that the issues of faith, religion and prayer should not begin or end at the doors to our schools:  "Our job as parents, our job as pastors, our job as teachers is to teach the children ahead of time."

Another Walnut Hill parent told us, "We discussed that on the way up here this morning and in our vehicle it was kind of divided...My husband said no.  If that's the belief then they need to go to that country because that's what America was founded on."

Copyright 2015 KSLA. All rights reserved.