Written by Don Byrd
School officials in Louisiana’s Bossier Parish have agreed to end a year-long legal dispute over the role of religion in their public schools after reaching a settlement with a group of parents who filed a lawsuit through Americans United, claiming sweeping church-state violations. Last year, the district voted to end settlement talks and litigate the claims, but the announcement this week will bring an end to the matter, pending court approval.
The Times-Picayune explains the nature of the agreement in its report:
The settlement requires the Bossier school board to create a monitoring committee to review and resolve potential violations or disputes involving religious freedom.
The settlement also requires the board to create, expand or seek out appropriate facilities to minimize the need to hold school events in houses of worship, Americans United stated. The school board will still protect the rights of all Bossier students to pray in school, but only as long as the prayers are initiated by students, aren’t disruptive and don’t occur during class time. Bossier teachers are still allowed to teach about religion, but it must be done “in an objective manner” that does “not proselytize students.”
Public school students should not have to choose between being full participants in their schools and being true to their faith. That means on the one hand, yes they can pray on their own initiative at school, alone or in groups; but on the other hand it means that school officials must refrain from promoting religion. Kudos to the families who had the courage to bring these concerns to the public’s attention, and to the school district for ultimately coming to an agreement that seeks to protect everyone’s rights.
For more, see Americans United’s press release.