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Pamera Sumners -- Civil Rights Lawyer

April 3, Morning Session

Following the morning break, the Convention continued with an address by civil liberties attorney Pamela Sumners, who spoke on “Fighting the Religious Reich: Tales from Alabama.” Ms. Sumners is a constitutional lawyer who has been involved in major state-church separation cases, including that of Alabama Judge Roy More who opens jury assembly with Christian prayer, and the case of former Governor Fob James, a fundamentalist Christian who proclaimed that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the State of Alabama.

“Our religious Reich found a willing Chancellor in former Gov. Fob James,” declared Ms. Sumners. She listed a long bill of particulars from James’s legal response to the court in a case concerning prayer and other religious ritual in the public schools, adding that the Supreme Court dismissed the petition “without comment.” Among the specifics:

  • The Bill of Rights does not apply to the individual states.

  • Federal judges are “out of control.” Sumners noted, “Federal judges had better be out of control -- out of control of Alabama governors.”

  • “ The public has been led ‘blindfolded and unwilling’ to Hell because of court decisions on abortion rights...”

“In Alabama, our public schools do every day what the Supreme Court said in 1963 what they could not do... they lead students in prayer.”

Ms. Sumners then discussed the situation in Pike County, where she defended a Jewish family harassed by Christians and school authorities. In a school there, a pair of non-Christian students were victimized by teachers, administrators and even fellow-students. Anti-Semitic cartoons and graffiti abounded; the students were physically attacked, and perpetrators ignored by the school authorities. “The children’s parents complained for five years,” noted Sumners. In response to an open letter, the school superintendent wrote back that he wished to resolve the situation “using the liberties provided under our Lord...”

She then talked about the situation in DeKalb County, where a slew of unconstitutional practices were tolerated. There was active harassment of students who professed minority faiths (or no faith at all). Judge Ira DeMent had to intervene with a 17 page injunction, backed up by 62-pages of finding-of-fact.

Ms. Sumners then discussed the outrageous case of Etowah County Judge Roy Moore, who opens his judicial proceedings with a Christian invocation. When asked by the court why he did not select a rabbi, Moore replied that he could not find a listing for one in the telephone director, and that he would not invite a Baptist, Moslem or Hindu to lead the prayer since they did not worship the “one true God.”

Sumners accused “right wing adults of fighting their culture war on the backs of children.”

“What Would Jesus Do?” Sumners asked in concluding her talk? “He would not stand on the public street corners waiting to be seen as the hypocrites do, and he would turn over the tables of the money-changers who in the churches are making fortunes with direct mail appeals while spreading lies and misinformation.”

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