The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a judge to hold a Louisiana school board in contempt because someone said a prayer over the PA system before a high-school baseball game.
Joe Cook, executive director of ACLU of Louisiana, claims members of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board should be fined or go to jail “for their calculated un-American and immoral conduct to embarrass, hinder or obstruct the court in the administration of justice.”
The March 24 prayer came after a years-long legal battle waged against the district by the ACLU, which claims any prayer at a public-school event violates the First Amendment establishment clause. The original suit, one of three filed against the district in the last 10 years, was brought on behalf of a parent and his two children who were offended by the prayers before local football games. According to the Associated Press, part of the action was settled last year when the district agreed to ban all prayers at athletic events and other school functions.
“This marks the second contempt motion filed against the school board within the past two weeks for transgressions of injunctions related to the original lawsuit,” the ACLU said in a statement. The other offense related to an elementary school student reciting the Lord’s Prayer in a program before the March 15 school board meeting, as part of a program led by a teacher’s aide.
The ACLU expressed outrage that, when Shane Tycer took the microphone to pray before the ballgame when the regular announcer was late, no school officials tried to stop him. The board pointed out Tycer is not a district employee so he was not bound by the court settlement. Cook noted neither the board nor superintendent has repudiated the prayer and called the late-announcer story a “lame explanation.”
Said Cook: “The school board and its superintendent cannot get away with a shell game that mocks the judiciary and its role of interpreting and upholding the rule of law. It is time to put out the welcome mat to believers and non-believers alike at all public-school functions across the state and the nation. Children and parents whose beliefs are different from the majority must not be made to feel like outsiders in their own schools.”
The ACLU claims the school board is guilty of a “pattern and practice of disobeying the law in order to promote Christianity over other religions in public schools.”
“Public schools should be kept inclusive and secular in keeping with our founders’ ideas for religious liberty for all,” Cook said.
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