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Louisiana School District Cited for Religious Practice in School

December 20th, 2017


Bossier School District in Louisiana was recently informed they are violating the law by implementing improper religious practice at public schools.

Bossier School District in Louisiana was recently informed they are violating the law by implementing improper religious practice at public schools.

There have been many cases in the news regarding the role that religious practice such as prayer should play in public schools. Recently, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a watchdog group in Washington D.C., accused the Bossier School District in Louisiana of violating the law in this area by implementing improper Christian prayer at public schools.

The Americans United group found the religious practice in this school district to be of a much greater extent than they normally see. It is important that people who are interested in the conflict between state and religion understand what happened in this recent news story because the manner in which the school district responds will likely serve as an example for other school districts that have not properly separated church and state.

What Prompted the Case

In October, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to Bossier School District claiming that the school had made several violations regarding religious practice in public schools including:

  • Holding school events at churches: These events include kindergarten and middle-school graduation ceremonies, middle school choir concerts, and meals before games held for football players.
  • Performances by school choirs in which students sang almost entirely Christian songs.
  • Promoting religion within athletic programs held at the school including prayers made over stadium loudspeakers and prayers conducted by football coaches after games.
  • Religious displays that were put up in administrator’s office and classrooms including two large crosses.
  • Teachers who required students to conduct Christian prayers and instructed students about how belief in Jesus was important to make a good person.
  • Teachers who sponsored clubs offered by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and encouraged students to disperse religious material in class.
  • Teachers who taught creationism in class.

The school acknowledged that similar complaints have been received, but the school declined to comment further about any of these events.

What Federal Law Says About These Boundaries

The 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District ruled that any type of prayer or reading from the Bible in a public school classroom constitutes religious practice that violates the constitution.

This activity is still considered unconstitutional if students who wish to not join in the prayer are allowed to leave the room.

The Tinker case also upheld that reading prayers over a school’s intercom system in a classroom is unconstitutional.

This case is particularly noteworthy because the letter written by Americans United suggests that Bossier School District performed each of these activities.

Tracking the Developments Between Church and State

Each month, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on bringing its readers an informative explanation of the most recent developments regarding the division between church and state. The blog also strives to inform its readers why the stories mentioned are instructional and informative in nature. In the case of Bossier School District, the noteworthy element is extent to which the school district was intermingling church and state issues as well as the great likelihood that the case will serve as an example for future cases.

(image courtesy of Jeremy Bishop)

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