Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a federal lawsuit against the Bossier Parish School Board in early 2018.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed a federal lawsuit, Does 1-4 v. Bossier Parish School Board, “in an attempt to end the widespread, unconstitutional promotion of Christianity throughout Bossier public schools.”

Americans United filed the lawsuit on behalf of four Bossier Parish parents whose children’s religious freedom “has been repeatedly and blatantly trampled by the religious coercion of Bossier Parish school board members, administrators, teachers and coaches,” Americans United said in a news release.

“We still have not been served with the lawsuit. We have only learned of it from the media. Once we do receive it, we will refer it to our legal counsel” said Sonja Bailes, public relations liaison for Bossier Schools.

The release said that students from elementary school to high school have been affected by violations that occurred at a variety of school-sponsored and extra-curricular events.

“Parents of all backgrounds should be able to put their trust in public schools to teach children reading and math – and to let families make their own decisions about faith,” said Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United. “Unfortunately, that is not the atmosphere that Bossier Parish Schools provide. Even though the district educates a diverse community that includes all the people who come to the area to serve our nation at Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier Parish school officials make one religion – Christianity – pervade all aspects of school life.

“Bossier teachers, coaches and administrators have put students who aren’t participating in these religious activities in an untenable position, making them targets for bullying and causing them to question their families’ beliefs,” Katskee said. “Americans United has repeatedly asked the district to create a more welcoming environment that does not promote any particular faith or promote religion over nonreligion. But school officials have refused to alter their practices. We now ask the courts to intervene on behalf of Bossier families who practice a variety of religions and faiths that deserve to be respected and protected.”

Americans United first contacted the district in June 2017 on behalf of a community member regarding student-led prayers at the Benton High School graduation, according to the news release. After more community members expressed concerns about additional activities, Americans United contacted the district again in a November 2017 letter.

The complaints listed in the lawsuit include:

  • School events held at churches, often in sanctuaries or other rooms replete with religious iconography. These events have included choir and band performances, kindergarten and middle-school graduations, awards ceremonies and pregame meals for football players.
  • School events, especially graduation ceremonies, often include prayers as part of the official program. Prayers may be delivered by students or by school officials, and the speakers often compel students and audience members to participate by standing, removing their caps and/or bowing their heads.
  • Extensive promotion of religion within school athletic programs, including team devotionals; coaches distributing Bibles and other religious materials to student-athletes and pressuring them to attend church and mission trips; pregame prayers led by pastors in student locker rooms; prayers over stadium loudspeakers during games; and postgame prayers led by coaches on the football field.
  • Teachers proselytizing in classrooms, including requiring students to recite Christian prayers or leading them in prayers; using Christian-themed videos to teach health classes; and telling a student that one must believe in Jesus to be a good person.
  • Official endorsement of Christian student clubs and community events, including teachers sponsoring Fellowship of Christian Athletes clubs and encouraging students to participate by handing out promotional materials in class; promoting Bring Your Bible to School Day through banners in schools and bible verses read over an elementary school public-address system; and allowing local churches access to students during the school day to distribute religious materials and invite children to participate in religious activities.
  • Teachers promoting creationism in class.
  • Religious displays in classrooms and administrators’ offices.
  • Choir performances that force students to sing almost exclusively Christian worship songs.

Does 1-4 v. Bossier Parish School Board was filed in the U.S. District Court in Shreveport. It also names Bossier Parish Superintendent Scott Smith as a defendant. The four parent plaintiffs are remaining anonymous to prevent further ostracism of their children.

The lawsuit was prepared by Katskee, AU Senior Litigation Counsel Eric Rothschild and AU Legal Fellow Alison Tanner with assistance from Louisiana attorney William P. Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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    • Monica Treat Gardner It would be, if they weren’t using school resources (such as the PA system) to do it. And, if you’ve read the article, you would see that the school has done far more than that, even after they were warned of the potential legal issues.

    • Caroline Billiot Hardly. I’m not trying to get a rise out of anyone. I’m simply explaining how this is going to go, based on previous cases. If my doing that is making you upset, that’s on you, not me.

    • Timothy White so they use the PA system? No one is forced to join. It offensive to hear a call to join other students for a prayer time? This is exactly why they are called snowflakes. This same sect who would sue for this reason are the same ones bringin lawsuits to FORCE businesses to bake a cake or make a work of art that goes against every thing they believe in and that would be offensive to God. A God I might remind you is yours too. Deny Him if you want to but He is real and he is there. Regardless the reason that there is so much filth and violence and horrors in our children’s lives in this day is because of groups like this who insist on pushing their views down our throats. No one has to join these students and there are constitutional laws in place that protect this exact thing.

    • Joan Taylor There are no laws that allow for a publicly funded school to promote any particular religion. And, I honestly don’t care what you think your god wants or doesn’t want. I’m discussing the law.

  1. And their whole tag line absolutely supports the absurdity of their case. No students should feel excluded because of their beliefs. Umm…..maybe someone should inform them that they are doing exactly that.

  2. It is no longer the majority rules. Because of the liberal courts & judges the minority always gets its way. I don’t agree but look at past rulings.

  3. Question always come back to me. Kids upset or just the parents. How were those parents raised. Does it offend you to listen to others without resorting to legal means. What has made this country less is that a few people appear insulted when they can’t overcome the notion that many other people have the same concern for their kids.

    • It’s sad to me just how evil some people are…they will do anything to attack Christianity with any means necessary. Why would or should it bother anyone if their child heard a prayer? If for some reason we moved oversees to a predominately Muslim or Hindu country, I would teach my children to be respectful of others and be grateful and thankful if they offered prayer for you and be kind. Apparently others can’t be as respectful and let it go.

  4. Bossier is one of the fastest growing parishes in our State. We are rated an A because of our administration, teachers, and parental involvement. Bossier Parish parents will stand by our School Board against this.

  5. So answer me this, when a Muslim female wears her Habib to school and cites religion as the reason she must wear it, how is that any different? Why because Christians are not suing and demanding she not wear it!

    • You are comparing the private, religious actions of a student (which is protected by the constitution) vs. the actions of school officials (who have to abide by the no establishment clause).

    • Brian Westley no I am not, the schools have a dress code that all other children abide by, they then in turn use religion to be able to stray from that dress code. Tell me another child that gets to wear head coverings to school?

    • Jennifer Guile, anyone who wants to. Are you unaware of Christian and Jewish sects (like Eastern Orthodox) that also want women to cover their hair? And I’d like to see if the dress code actually requires a lack of a head scarf…

    • Brian Westley I would be curious about the wording also, because I know that a child that identifies as per say a “cowboy” can’t wear his hat to school. If you are going to allow head scarf strictly based on religious basis then where is the line that one is ok but the other student can’t pray to their God? And yes I am aware of other religions wanting hair covered I used the Muslim religion as an example because their religion seems to wear it more than others. My point was that no one is crying because the young lady wants to honor her religion by covering, why can’t the same be afforded the other way? If they do not want to pray they do not have to participate but a little respect goes a long way on every side of the discussions.

    • Jennifer Guile: “If you are going to allow head scarf strictly based on religious basis then where is the line that one is ok but the other student can’t pray to their God?”

      You don’t know what you’re talking about — EVERY student can pray to their god(s). What is at issue here is when SCHOOL OFFICIALS get involved.

    • Brian Westley yes I do know what I am talking about, just because you don’t like my response doesn’t mean automatically you are right and I am wrong—that is what is so wrong in the world today—no one being able to see the other side or respect the other side. The argument seems to be the parents in the background that think their child may learn a different way than what they want them to believe. I want my child to know about every religion, mine and/or yours, it serves them to be a better informed individual that will be able to deal with reality when they are in the real world and learn how to think for themselves. It would appear to me that if a parent is upset that a child is “exposed” to a different religion maybe they should question their own beliefs. And God forbid any of our school officials being religious!

    • Jennifer Guile, no, you really do NOT know what you are talking about.

      It’s not merely legal but constitutionally protected that students can pray in public school — Americans United (the organization suing) will even tell you that.

  6. Bossier Parish has roughly 21,000 students enrolled in public school grades k-12. 4 parents are suing. 4 out of +21,000. 4 have a problem with what more than 21,000 people are doing. 4 people expect >21,000 to accommodate them because they are offended…..weak, cowards.

    • I’ve never seen evidence of any student being forced to be a part of or participate in religious activities. The venues offered by local churches are offered at no cost for students to perform choir and band concerts. We no longer have school auditoriums and gymnasiums are always in use for sports activities so what choice do we have? We could rent a place for every single school to use for performances at the tax payers’ expense I guess. If there are problems with the venues then who of the naysayers has a solution at a no cost venue for our children to demonstrate their talent? I’m a firm believer in choice when it comes to religion and faith or the opposite. But tax dollars only go so far when we are trying to keep the arts alive. Just because one finds a bible in a hotel drawer doesn’t mean one has to read it or believe in the words in it. And as far as the conflict between evolution and creationism, the two are definitely real world examples of compare and contrast, leaving the door open to increase knowledge in writing and in reading. Students who choose to pursue a career in law, medicine, and many other vocations will need to have the ability to inyellectually discuss the topic of faith.

    • Dianna Berwick Judd, “forcing” isn’t the issue — public schools can’t promote religion. And creationism isn’t a science, it doesn’t belong in science class any more than flat-earthism.

    • Brian Westley.. then it looks like our students will lead the way and pray, have bible study, talk about God… there is more than one way to skin a cat. I’m sure you will have some comment and tell me how wrong I am.. but personally, I don’t care.
      My child will continue to pray, bow his head, and talk about God at school. Heck, I might even make a trip to every Game, event..and whatever else they have going on to say a prayer. See, I don’t work for the school so I can do that. I’m sure parents would follow suit. That’s my FREEDOM OF SPEECH according to our constitution. That way the “so called administration” won’t have anything to do with it.
      Honestly, I’m so sorry you weren’t raised to accept people’s beliefs. I don’t agree with you being an Atheist, but I respect it if that’s what you believe. But, you don’t see me filing law suits on Atheists because I don’t believe the way they believe.
      All I can say if that I believe in God and I will shout it from the mountain tops and even at a football game if I want. If you choose to shout that you don’t believe in God.. go for it.. You won’t bother me a bit. In the end, I know who my heart belongs too.

    • Melanie Newman Brown, just have the school stop violating the constitution.

      “I’m sure you will have some comment and tell me how wrong I am”

      No, I’ve been the one telling YOU what is legal and not legal.

      “Honestly, I’m so sorry you weren’t raised to accept people’s beliefs.”

      Now you’re just lying about me. You’ve been advocating for government officials to ignore the constitution and violate the religious rights of students, not me.

      “But, you don’t see me filing law suits on Atheists because I don’t believe the way they believe.”

      Differing beliefs have nothing to do with this issue. You still have no grasp of genuine religious freedom.

    • No that’s not what I think. That is what you ASSUME. I was nearly pointing out how ridiculous these 4
      fragile souls are. Perhaps if they had a little more Jesus, they wouldn’t be so miserable, with such obvious empty lives. Imagine how beneficial that energy could be if it were used in a positive way, like feeding the hungry, or random acts of kindness, or love rather than filing a stupid lawsuit because someone mentioned God. God isn’t going anywhere, and the more attempt to silence God is only going to make us pray harder, louder, without ceasing. Bring it on, tell us we can’t pray or talk about out Lord, we dare you.

    • Shellie Sipes You’re still mistating the issues at play here. No one, and I do mean no one, is trying to stop students from engaging in their religious beliefs, even at school. What is at issue is that neither school officials, nor the school itself, can take any part in that. I, personally, can’t understand why anyone would want any part of the government anywhere near their religious beliefs. It’s not as it it’s ever been a good steward of morality or ethics.

    • Brian Westley I do know and understand WHAT FREEDOM MEANS. Again, you are saying it’s the schools breaking a law. I do understand what you are saying. It’s a law. But, When it comes to my Freedom of Speech, The people of Bossier Parish..not the people who are employed by the state and work for the school system, will exercise that amendment and we Will go PRAY AND BOW OUR HEADS before every game. The students have the right to join In. It’s your right to remove yourself from the situation if you don’t like it. That’s what I’m saying.
      Again, I’m very sorry you weren’t raised to respect others belief. Have a blessed day.

    • Timothy, it’s ok to pray at work. It’s ok to FREELY worship anywhere. Always has been, until snow flakes got offended. Just like in God we trust on the money, 10 commandments at the courthouse, One Nation under God…….. the idea of our forefathers was that NO ONE was forced or prohibited anywhere. Every public Shool in the Country started the day off with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer at one time, as well as every game, assembly, and function. The list goes on.

    • Our schools still do. Only know the prayer is a moment of silence, so any religion can pray. We still have a prayer at football games. Student led prayer is not the issue in this suit. It is the teachers handing out or teaching their religion in school which is wrong. Teachers and staff should be neutral so all students can have their beliefs. For a teacher to say Christianity is the only way or that their is no Christianity is completely wrong. They should keep their personal beliefs personal. If there was a Muslim, Jewish or atheist teacher telling the kids this was the only way the whole community would be up in arms. I understand Christians feel like they are being attacked but look at the bigger picture here. Take your personal feelings out of it. How would you feel if you were in a predominately atheist community and this is what they were promoting in school and there were only 4 Christian kids and yours was one of them. Would you sue? I would! I want the right to let my children believe whatever they want. I don’t want the teachers to choose for them. We have our own religious discussions at home and they are free to believe how ever they want. I won’t force my beliefs on anyone. I will discuss how I believe the way I do. If it changes someone’s thinking great if not then that is fine too. A different religion doesn’t make them bad, it makes them different!

    • No I wouldn’t sue, I’d point my kids to the bible, I’d make sure my kid put the full armor of God on every morning, and I’d tell my Child what a blessing it is for God to use you. I’d tell them they were put here with these atheist to let God’s light shine through you, so you can be an example of God’s Love. I’d show them this very thing is prophesied in the bible, and how the power of prayer changes everything, so pray for those who persecute you. Here is your chance, now go make them want some of what you got. You can’t silence a true Christian. Salvation and lost souls are far more important than any job. You think school is a racquet now, with shootings, bullying, suicides, take the praying teachers out and see what happens. If a student is seeking or hungry for Jesus, it’s a Christians God given responsibility to feed them, at all cost. That is what faith is all about Kathy Jo Butenschoen. Not law suits. Ya may want to see what Corinthians says about law suits.

    • Don’t judge me. I don’t need to look up anything. There is nothing wrong with praying teachers. But they can’t tell the students to pray to just one God. I am a Christian but I am open minded enough to see that there is line! School needs to be a safe place NO MATTER what religion you are!!! That is the point of this suit. Don’t push just one. There is a school in another parish up in arms right now because a teacher is telling her Christian students God doesn’t exist and didn’t create the world, science did. That is JUST as wrong! A schools job is to teach, not shove their personal beliefs down children’s throats!

    • Science has BEEN teaching that. I had the same debate in science class 25 years ago. Creation vs evolution has always been a thing. No one and I repeat NO ONE is being made to do anything, believe anything, or participate in anything. As long as that isn’t happening, why do people have such a hard time conversating about faith? Would this get the same support if we refused to let homosexual students or teachers and staff display, discuss, show any behavior, literature, or conversations, that would suggest a homosexual lifestyle because one little girl got offended? No that would be ridiculous, just as hushing Christians is ridiculous.

    • I have no problem if people are conversating about it. That is not what is being portrayed in the above article. The other school in question the teacher actually told the student God didn’t exist. I was taught Creation vs Evolution as well. My teacher didn’t reveal any personal beliefs nor did he tell us ours were wrong. That is the issue I have. Don’t tell my child that God is not real or that her religion is the wring one and your is right period.

    • My science teacher told me the same thing. My son’s told him the same thing. More than one of them. 25 years ago before precious wittle feelings got hurt, we could ha e open discussions about faith, evolution, and Science that was actually healthy and a learning experience. We were much more tolerant then. Several of my teachers openly didn’t believe in God and several openly did. This is nothing more than the result of a bunch of whiny little coddled brats. What USED to be the beauty of public schools is it gave children the opportunity to interact with ALL walks of life, peers and administration of all religions, all faiths, all genders, all disabilities, all types this expanding the mind, while promoting critical thinking and tolerance. Furthermore, from a Christian standpoint, if your worried about what nonbelievers say to your child, I’d have to question how stable you really are in your beliefs. Once you have discovered God and his grace, nothing anyone says to you will cause you to waver, if anything it would just set your light on fire. Usually children who live in the presence of the Holy Spirit have the strongest unwavering faith, so much so it’s an example of how faith should truly work. Be steadfast and stand firm. Anything less is Luke warm

    • Melanie Newman Brown, no, you don’t know what freedom means. Freedom ALSO means that government employees like public school teachers don’t misuse their position to push their religion on other people’s children.

  7. I played sports at Benton, the coaches never once made us pray. They asked us if we’d like to join in prayer before a game or after practice and everyone did. The FCA, fellowship of Christian athletes also sponsors a lot of the events. No one is forced to go, no one is forced to pray. Religion was never once forced upon me in the 13 years i attended a bossier parish school.

  8. Does the choir sing religious songs? Do teachers hand out bibles? Do they hold programs in churches? This is where they will lose. Not student lead prayer. Do they had out Christian literature in class? If they do, do they hand out other religions too? How would parents feel if there was a Muslim or Jewish teacher doing the same? I am all for prayer but the church and state law is real. As Americans we do have a right to go to school without that worry. I know we a majorly a Christian based country but think about if it was happening with a different religion. Would you be ok then? Or if the school shunned a student for being a Christian? There is a fine line on this. Teachers should not ever teacher their or give their religious beliefs. All students should be allowed to pray to whomever their God is without criticism. These are some serious accusations in the lawsuit. If they are true the school is in trouble. Just saying.

  9. You Dorks don’t even realize that “The Separation of Church and State” was to keep the State out of the Church not the Church out of the State!
    You Liberals are trying to keep us from having our Freedoms and Customs and trying to send Kids to Hell along the way!
    Quit trying to be a Bully!

    • No, we’re trying to ensure that government leaves your religion alone. It’s sad that you think the government should have a hand in what you or your children believe.

  10. Let those students keep doing prayer.For the others they can walk away.Don’t spoil this because of a few,freedom of speech.Stand up for your right to be a Christian.

  11. Why don’t they come out and say what it is they really want. They want to take away all faith and hope from communities so that they can turn this country Communist. It’s in the play book. I mean no one would be against teaching a kid do not steal, love every one of your brothers, honor your mother and father, do not kill etc. unless they had an agenda behind it.
    If your kid feels left out and sad because people are enjoying serving God, then you suck as a parent. If you have instilled a good self esteem in them, then they shouldn’t be worried about what everyone else is doing. It’s none of their business. They are not being made to pray so shut up and mind your business.

    • No, the FFRF really wants public school officials to follow the constitution. These violations still occur all over the US, and the FFRF knows the law.

      What’s so hard about following the constitution? Why do you WANT teachers to push their religion on other people’s children?

    • Brian Westley they are not pushing it on anyone. It’s the same way it’s been since the Constitution was written. People are just now deciding to bitch about it. If you dont want to pray don’t pray. Shut up and stop trying to stop others from praying. The teachers do not have a mandatory Christian class. That would be pushing religion on people. You demanding them to act like they are not Christian is forcing your atheism on them. Mind your own business. Christianity has never hurt anyone. It teaches love and kindness. If it was teaching killing or hate then you should worry that your kids are around someone who is practicing it.

    • Vanessa Green Fudge The Constitution does NOT say “freedom of religion.” That phrase is nowhere to be found in that document. However, how can you call something a freedom if you not also free from it? Are you not free from the unwanted influence of other religions trough government promotion?

  12. GOD’S NOT DEAD! He’s alive! Jesus Christ is alive too! Heaven and Hell are real and Satan is real! EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE IS TRUE! It’s NOT outdated, yeah, it was written by men…and a woman(Esther), but the same men AND woman LIVED AND WITNESSED ALL THAT HAPPENED! God spoke to them in different ways and He still does today!

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