Louisiana Says Students Have Right to Pray, Read Bible in Public Schools
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., have released the Louisiana Students Rights Review, a 15-page guide that explains the religious freedom rightsof teachers and students in public schools.
The review says that public schools in the U.S. do not need to be “religion-free zones.”
“To the contrary, both federal and state laws specifically protect religious freedom rights in public schools,” the document reads. “Thankfully, Congress and our state legislature still recognize the fundamental importance of religious liberty — the first freedom listed in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”
The document also says that just because schools have to stay neutral on religion, that shouldn’t keep students from practicing their faith on school property.
Instead, students are free to pray, discuss their faith, read the Bible and invite others to religious events. That the U.S. Constitution protects that type of speech, the review says.
However, the document did note that all religious activity has to be student-led and student-initiated.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has outlined a set of factors that would keep student prayer at such events from running afoul of the law,” the document reads. “Such a prayer should be permissible if: (a) the school allows a time at graduation for a student to share a message of his or her own choosing; (b) neutral criteria determines which student is allowed to speak during this time; (c) there is no involvement or prior review of the speaker’s message by the school officials or staff; and (d) students are instructed that their speech may not materially and substantially interfere with the graduation ceremony, or be vulgar, lewd or obscene.”
Schools can also recognize Christmas and Easter with parties as long as the purpose is “educational” and does not “advance a particular religion.”
Faculty and teachers are allowed to organize bible studies and prayer groups outside of instructional time, according to the document.
They may also discuss religion in the classroom if it is relevant to the classroom’s subject.
The document comes after a Louisiana mother sued the Webster Parish School District in December, claiming that the district was unconstitutionally promoting Christianity.
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Publication date: January 4, 2018