Prayer Meeting or Stealth Political Event? or Both??? Observations, Evaluation and Report by Robert A. Williams

Shelby: Regarding the Unity Prayer Gathering held September 29, 2015 at the Scrugg’s Center, sometimes called the Old Courthouse: Of course Praying for the “right’ things” is always a good endeavor, but mixing religion and politics is an old Southern tradition. Especially in Cleveland County. So how do we know what the “Unity Pray Gathering,” as School Board member Donnie Thurman, Jr. called it, actually was?

The first big clue is the timing of the Prayer meting. September 29, 2015 is exactly five weeks before the highly contested School Board General Election on November 3, 2015. This Prayer gathering also happens to be exactly in the middle of Early Voting for Shelby City Ward 2 Primary Election and only one week before the Shelby Ward 2 Primary Election Day. This was confirmed by the Cleveland County Board of Elections.

Another Prayer event is scheduled October 24th, which happens to be right in the middle of the General Election Early Voting and just nine days before the General Election itself on November 3, 2015. This was also confirmed by the Cleveland County Board of Elections. One has to wonder that, if this was purely just a gathering to Pray, why was it not held at any other times of the year? Why right in the middle of Election Day politics? The un-escapable conclusion, just on timing alone, must be this: although anytime is a good time to Pray, this so called Unity Prayer gathering is an election year publicity stunt with a political agenda; disguised as a Prayer Meeting. A Stealth Political Event. That agenda being to re-elect the incumbent school board members. Read on for more information.

And there is more information. Two of the three Prayer Meeting organizers identified by the Shelby Star, Donnie Thurman, Jr. and Lamont Littlejohn are associated with Cleveland County Schools; where a big political fight is going on for the five seats up for election on November 3, 2015. There are seventeen candidates running for those five seats.

Donnie Thurman, Jr. is an incumbent CCS Board Member not up for re-election this year. Thurman also works for the Communities in Schools, which is funded in large part by CCS and the CCS Board. I recognized five School Board members (a majority), Donnie Thurman, Jr., Phillip Glover, Shearra Miller, Roger Harris and Richard Hooker at the Prayer gathering. These same five the evening before attended a CCS Board workshop and business meeting. There was no mention of Prayer at the CCS Board workshop and business meeting. And, each of these CCS Board members have previously voted against having a Prayer at the CCS Board meetings in lieu of a moment of silence. It is hard for me to reconcile the difference between what these Board members DID (or didn’t) do one day and what they SAY the next day. If these Board members believed so much in the Power of Prayer, they could have voted to have prayer at the CCS Board meetings right there on the spot at the gathering or at the Board meeting the day before. But they did not. I do not understand why citizens would vote for a candidate who they know says one thing at a political event and then does exactly the opposite thing when in office.

The Rev. Lamont Littlejohn is also an enigma. Littlejohn has been accused of political mischief at CCS by dismantling a “Diversity Team” and then turning around to re-form the Diversity Team to exclude some former team members who had spoken out for taking more action. In an obvious political payoff, another old Cleveland County trick, for what Littlejohn did (splitting the black community), the CCS Board recently appointed Littlejohn to fill the un-expired term of Hoyt Bailey(deceased) on the Cleveland Community College Board of Trustees. It was also noted that Littlejohn’s accusers, fellow ministers at local black churches, were not in attendance at the Prayer gathering. Although Donnie Thurman, Jr. told me the Littlejohn accusers had scheduling conflicts, it was readily apparent that Thurman and Littlejohn did not reschedule the Prayer gathering to suit the schedules of those members of the local clergy who would have been important for a truly “coming together” moment. Instead, Thurman and Littlejohn chose the political schedule and stealth politics as their priority-rather than unity.

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