Louisiana lawmakers attempted several times to reintroduce school prayer in the classroom, but the legislation was struck down by the courts. The laws in question allowed public schools the opportunity for prayer or meditation at the beginning of classes.
The first attempt was made in 1976 when legislation allowed a brief time for “silent meditation,” The New York Times reported
. The state legislature changed the wording to “silent prayer or meditation” in 1992. Legislators then removed the word “silent” in 1999.
Many schools throughout Louisiana ignored the law, but a school district in West Monroe conducted prayers over the school intercom until Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union took the case to court in 2000. They were representing a parent who said her son was called a devil worshiper when he refused to take part in the prayers, The New York Times said. Some legislators had also indicated they wanted a return to vocal prayer in the schools before voting on the latest bill, according to Americans United
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A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the law violated the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the judge’s ruling in 2001.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled against the practice of opening school board meetings with a prayer in 2005, according to FindLaw
. A student in the Tangipahoa Parish School District challenged the practice of including the invocation at the meetings.
The Sabine Parish School District was ordered by a federal district court to stop promoting or denigrating religion in a 2014 ruling, according to the American Civil Liberties Union
. The issue resulted from a sixth-grader of Thai descent who was a practicing Buddhist.
The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana, claimed that teachers and school administrators had ridiculed the student for his religious beliefs. The claim also stated that school officials had tried to impose their religious beliefs on students.
The school had taught creationism in class and included prayer in many school activities, according to the ACLU. The school board later agreed to remedy the violations following the federal court order.
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