First, Bishop Knox, and now Alice Hawley - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

First, Bishop Knox, and now Alice Hawley

By Ashley Conroy - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - A Franklin County High School teacher is back on the job Thursday after being fired for leading her class in prayer.

It was deja-vu for Algebra teacher Alice Hawley after she was fired for the same reason in the early 1990's.

Around the same time in November 1993, former Wingfield High School Principal Bishop Knox was fired for similar reasons.

Knox allowed a student to read a prayer over the intercom to the entire school.

The prayer read: "Almighty God, we ask that you bless our parents, teachers and country throughout the day.  In Your name we pray.  Amen."

Knox was reinstated as principal shortly after being fired.  He received national media attention, appeared on talk shows and was scrutinized for his "unconstitutionality" for allowing prayer in school.

When asked if he regretted his decision, his response was: "Well, a man can't regret a right decision.  At least I can't, and the decision that I made was the right decision."

Meanwhile, Hawley was also asked to come back to the school after being fired the first time. However, it wasn't until several years later, in 2010, she was asked to come back the next day.

Several graduates of Franklin High School and former students spoke in honor of Hawley but also stressed the need for more prayer in the public school system.

"We need to have prayer in our schools.  Whether it's student led, teacher led, whatever led.  It needs to be in our schools," said Franklin High School graduate Caleb Lehmann

Carmen Wilkinson was a former student of Hawley's in the early 1990's.  She attributed her faith to what she learned from Hawley more than what she learned from church.

"She taught me more about God's word than really I learned in church," said the former student.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that schools do not have the right to enforce prayer upon students.

In Mississippi, state statute says that student voluntary-initiated prayer is allowed.

Many current students at Franklin High School said they engage in voluntary prayer all the time.

Student Kristie Wallace said students will pray in the mornings before class and even sometimes during the lunch hour.

Former students said Hawley always gave her class the option to participate in prayer, and the teacher said she's never received any objections from those she taught. 

Hawley said she's glad to have her job back, but she said the challenge isn't over.

"The real victory will come when we can go in and freely pray, as we want to, as the children want to.  That's when the real victory comes," said Hawley.

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