Lee Judge brings prayer to his courtroom - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lee Judge brings prayer to his courtroom

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  A Lee County Judge is bringing prayer to his courtroom.

Before Judge James Thurman started the May court calendar Tuesday, a local pastor offered a prayer. The judge says he plans to open each monthly court calendar with a prayer and he encourages pastors or other religious leaders to volunteer to lead those prayers.

Judge Thurman pointed out the state's General Assembly starts each session with a prayer, local city and county commissions do it too, and because of the cases he's seeing come before him, he's now allowing a prayer in his courtroom.

Judge James Thurman says he's concerned by the number of people out of work and passing through his courtroom for one reason or the other. Some of the cases are simply heart wrenching.

"The other day we had an elderly lady charged with shoplifting for stealing food, lives on a fixed income," said Thurman.

He believes opening court with prayer gives them a promise of hope so he's revived the practice. Those inside his courtroom seem to agree.

"I go to church at Philema Road Baptist Church and I go as much as I can, and if it weren't for the Lord I don't think I would be alive today," said Wallace Strickland, a county resident.

Attorneys who frequent south Georgia courtrooms say it's certainly not the norm, to hear a prayer or even the pledge of allegiance.

"It was common when I went to federal court, but it's probably been about 15 years that it's not been as common occurrence," said Attorney Phil Cannon. We asked the judge if he worries his actions might be called into question and he's prepared to defend them?

"I would pray that it not be called into question. I'm not going to back down from my faith, I'm going to stand firm. If anyone wants to walk out I certainly would not stop them," said Thurman. @

Just like the judge also says he wouldn't ask someone of another religious faith in his courtroom to remove a religious items like a headdress. He's looking for volunteers.

"We would accept any pastor or any Christian person that feels they would like to come and share a prayer. Certainly would open it to any other faith that worships God," said Thurman.

He hopes it might be the opportunity some are looking for to ask for help instead of turning toward crime.

Thurman's office is also offering a class Thursday, May 6, 2010 on how to handle a case in Magistrate Court, because they have so many people coming into the courtroom unprepared. While they can't offer legal advice, they want to inform people about the court process. It's from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM at Grand Island.

Judge Thurman asks religious leaders interested in offering a prayer to sign up for a court date by calling the Magistrate Court in Lee County.

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