The ACLU wants officials at a New Orleans school district to be fined or jailed for not stopping prayer at a recent high school baseball game.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a motion this week for criminal contempt against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board for allegedly defying a court order banning official prayer at athletic events.
The ACLU said the latest violation was March 24 when an adult identified as Shane Tycer used the PA system to deliver a prayer before the start of a baseball game between Loranger High School and Sumner High School.
It’s the second contempt motion filed against the school board within the past two weeks.
Last month, the Louisiana ACLU also asked Judge Ginger Berrigan to hold the same school board in contempt for allowing an elementary school student to recite the Lord’s Prayer before its meeting.
Public prayer at school-related functions is “un-American and immoral,” contends ACLU of Louisiana’s executive director, Joe 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,” he said.
Cook said it’s “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.”
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, called the move an “assault on religious freedom.”
“While our high school campuses have become virtual battle grounds, the ACLU has fixed its sights not on the
perpetrators of violence but on those who would allow prayer,” Perkins said.
Perkins noted that when the school shooting took place in Texas Thursday, “the students and dazed administrators didn’t turn to the ACLU or the courts to be consoled but to local ministers who were summoned to the school to pray and counsel with the students.”
“If the ACLU and the courts would stop attacking students who are praying, we might very well have fewer violent criminals preying upon their classmates,” he said.
The ACLU said it has filed three lawsuits in the past 10 years on behalf of “offended parents” with children in the Tangipahoa Parish district.
The lawsuits include a challenge to promotion of the biblical story of creation; the presence of a “pizza preacher” proselytizing via a free lunch; and the latest school prayer case.
“The school board’s consistent defiance of the law not only dishonors and endangers the Constitution, but it also sends a message of religious intolerance and polarizes the community,” the group said in a statement.
In the March 24 incident, the school board acknowledged the prayer but insisted it bore no responsibility because Tycer is not a school employee and only filled in because the regular PA announcer arrived late.
The ACLU argues school officials made no attempt to stop Tycer and did not publicly repudiate his actions.
The school board’s behavior in the incident is part of a “pattern and practice of disobeying the law in order to promote Christianity over other religions in public schools,” the Louisiana ACLU maintained.
“Public schools should be kept inclusive and secular in keeping with our founders’ ideas for religious liberty for all,” said Cook. “Because public schools are part of the government, official school-organized or school-sponsored devotional exercises are inconsistent with the principle of religious freedom.”