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Louisiana district sued over religious content during school day

Feb. 10, 2018
Parents contend Bossier Parish Schools regularly uses prayer and Christian-themed messages during classes.

Four parents have sued the Bossier Parish (La.) School District for allegedly subjecting their children to unwanted and unconstitutional Christian messages and indoctrination.

The Shreveport Times reports that the lawsuit alleges widespread use of prayer on school property and during school events, in classrooms at all levels, at sporting events, at graduation ceremonies, during awards assemblies and at student government meetings. It also contends that school officials openly proselytize students in Christianity.  

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Shreveport on behalf of the parents. 

The parents are not identified in the lawsuit; they want to remain anonymous to protect their children, the lawsuit says. 

Sonja Bailes, spokesperson for Bossier Schools, declined to comment.

[READ the full lawsuit]

The suit contends the following:

•At some Bossier Parish graduation ceremonies, faculty or administrators delivered prayers from the podium through a public address system. 
•One Bossier choir director said she wouldn't allow the choir to perform in venues other than churches. School choir concerts include songs that are almost exclusively Christian worship songs.
•One elementary teacher required her students to memorize a Christian prayer and recite it before lunch.
•Another elementary teacher developed a daily practice of asking her students what they wanted to pray for. The teacher then led the class in Christian prayer.
•At Airline High, a health teacher told students about the importance of religion in her life. She used Christian-themed films to teach students about alcohol, drugs, dating violence and unsafe sex. She asked students their favorite Bible verse and asked an openly Muslim student to read aloud from the Bible.
•A science teacher invited students to make a presentation on the "creation point of view." She then directed the class in a reading of Genesis and supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution.
•A teacher told a child that Jesus was angry at those who did not attend church, and that non-Christians are bad people.
•Bossier Parish Schools allowed representatives of local churches to encourage students to participate in religious activities and to distribute religious materials on campuses during the school day.

The suit seeks a judge's declaration that the district is unconstitutionally promoting Christianity. The parents want an injunction ordering the district to end the practice.

“Bossier teachers, coaches and administrators have put students who aren’t participating in these religious activities in an untenable position, making them targets for bullying and causing them to question their families’ beliefs,” Richard B. Katskee, legal director for Americans United, said in a news release. "But school officials have refused to alter their practices. We now ask the courts to intervene on behalf of Bossier families who practice a variety of religions and faiths that deserve to be respected and protected.”

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