May 17, 2018

No More Christian Proselytizing for One Louisiana School District

The South End of Louisiana State Route 23

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Louisiana bring us news of a recent legal victory in the form of a consent decree in Webster Parish that will end a practice that never should have been happening in the first place:
Webster Parish School District will no longer subject students to school-sponsored Christian prayer, proselytizing, and other religious rituals under the terms of a consent decree approved Friday by a federal judge.
While this is undeniably good news, I can't help feeling disappointed that it took a federal judge to stop this practice. I'm also disappointed that a child and her family had to go through everything I'm sure they had to go through to put a stop to this nonsense.

I think Bruce Hamilton, the ACLU of Louisiana attorney quoted in the press release, was correct to characterize this as "...a victory for all students at Webster Parish School District, who now have the right to pray - or not to pray - free from interference or coercion from school officials." This is not only what atheists and other nonbelievers should want; it is also what religious believers should want.

And just what was going on at this school district?
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, detailed pervasive promotion of religion throughout district schools. Christian prayers were broadcast each morning over the PA system. School events--including athletic events, pep rallies, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies--incorporated official prayer, proselytizing, and other religious messages. Graduation ceremonies were frequently held in churches, and at times resembled church services with Bible verses and prayers. School officials have also told students that evolution is a “fairy tale,” and that the Bible should be taken literally.
It is appalling to think that this sort of thing would happen anywhere in the United States these days. And no, I'm still not buying the "but its the South" excuse. Still, I recognize that it would be naive to think that this wasn't happening. I suspect this stuff still happens far more often than many of us realize.

Big thanks to the national ACLU and the ACLU of Louisiana for helping to end these practices in at least one school district. Hopefully, this will influence other school districts in the area. Our children deserve better.