About 200 community members in Goldonna, Louisiana, attended a rally on Monday afternoon in support of a local principal who is currently under suspension for allowing student-led prayer during a Christmas program.
Goldonna Elementary-Junior High School principal Kendria Sanders faces a 10-day suspension because of a school program during the Christmas season. It featured religious songs and a student enacting Jesus on the cross.
Sanders did not lead the prayer service, despite reports that say the contrary, said Dale Skinner, Natchitoches Parish Schools superintendent.
Skinner added he plans to investigate the incident and report his findings to school board members.
Community members gathered at the church parking lot, located across the street from Goldonna Elementary-Junior High, to pray, sing and listen to speakers calling for more religious tolerance in their community.
Jason Womack, Goldonna Baptist Church Pastor, said he thinks the rally shows a need for Christians to come to the nation's forefront to spread their faith.
"I hope this goes from church to church," Womack said. "This is not just about Goldonna, but about bringing God first and foremost back into our hearts."
Skinner said he hopes the community understands that he had to reprimand Sanders for legal reasons, not personal.
“(I made it) clear what was legal and what wasn’t (at principals’ meetings)," Skinner said. "If she had asked me about it we might could have worked around it."
The Louisiana State Legislature passed a law in 2013 allowing student-led prayer services in public schools. Students can use classrooms or other available spaces for prayer or self-reflection.
The law also states a teacher or school administrator can serve as a supervisor, if invited by the students.
Womack said he wants to speak with board members about the suspension because he thinks the community wants more religious liberty.
"This not about me or Goldonna Baptist, but about other people's hearts," Womack said.