Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) recently filed a federal lawsuit against Bossier Parish, Louisiana, to stop the “widespread unconstitutional promotion of Christianity throughout” its school system.
The lawsuit comes one month after the state issued guidance on religious freedom in public schools. On January 2, 2018, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson released guidelines about religion in public schools, called the Louisiana Student Rights Review, which includes answers to 26 “frequently asked questions” about religious freedom and public school education.
AU and four Bossier Parish parents who are plaintiffs in the suit, obviously didn’t read the state’s report. Instead, they argue that the school board, school administrators, teachers and coaches all violated their children’s religious freedom.
In a press release, AU’s Richard Katskee, said,
Parents of all backgrounds should be able to put their trust in public schools to teach children reading and math – and to let families make their own decisions about faith. Unfortunately, that is not the atmosphere that Bossier Parish Schools provide. … Bossier Parish school officials make one religion – Christianity – pervade all aspects of school life.
Americans United claims the school district has violated the students’ rights in school classrooms and offices, school-sponsored events, football games, graduations, and school-sponsored extracurricular clubs and athletic programs. It lists a long litany of places and events where Christianity has been promoted, including church meals, team devotionals, “Bring your Bible to School Day”, student-led prayers, the promotion of creationism, and the list goes on.
Americans United first contacted Bossier School District last year after Benton High School’s 2017 graduation ceremony included student-led prayers. AU argued that prayers were unconstitutional because “they communicated the School District’s endorsement of a particular religion and coerced students to participate in a religious exercise.”
But the Bossier School District has not ended the graduation prayer practice.
BREAKING: We just filed a federal lawsuit challenging Louisiana's Bossier Parish Schools’ unconstitutional promotion of…
Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, said of the state’s report, “Students may exercise their constitutional rights to religious free speech while on public school campuses during non-instructional times. They do not give up those rights just because they are in a public school.”