WEBSTER PARISH, LA. (WAFB) - A student in at North Louisiana school and a national nonprofit organization, whose focus is to defend the rights and liberties of individuals, have set their sights on one Louisiana school district.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana filed suit in federal court challenging Webster Parish School District's widespread practice of "subjecting students to school-sponsored Christian prayer, proselytizing, and other religious rituals," the organization said in a press release.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Christy Cole, a parent of a Webster Parish student, and her daughter, who attends Lakeside Junior and Senior High in Sibley.
"Deeply personal decisions about how and whether to practice religion should be made by families, not the government," said ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney Bruce Hamilton. "Webster Parish School District's insistence on subjecting students to this kind of heavy-handed religious indoctrination is a clear violation of the Constitution, and has harmed our clients and the community as a whole."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, details what the ACLU describes as "pervasive promotion of religion" throughout schools in the district.
In Webster Parish, Christian prayers are broadcast each morning over the PA system, the ACLU claims. The organization also claims at school events, including athletic events, pep rallies, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies, incorporate official prayer, proselytizing, and other religious messages.
The ACLU also cites graduation ceremonies being held in churches, telling students evolution is a 'fairy tale', and invited Christian rapper Mynista to speak at one school.
According to Webster Parish School Board's policy on prayer in schools, the board permits school authorities to allow an opportunity for prayer or meditation at the start of the day if they so choose. However, public schools are not allowed to adopt nor use an official or standard prayer, rather voluntary, student-initiated, student-led prayer "in accordance with the religious views of the student offering the prayer may be permitted," the policy says.
The policy also states that no student should be required to participate in any religious activity at school or school-sponsored event.
A copy of the complaint can be found below: