What’s next for school board in religion lawsuit?

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Congressman says parish eyed by national atheist groups

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

The Bossier Parish School Board is scheduled to have its day in court this spring to fight a lawsuit alleging unconstitutional actions involving the promotion of Christianity.

The Bossier Parish School Board met in special session on Sept. 11 and concluded that they cannot come to an agreement with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and instructed their attorney, Jon Guice, to proceed with a federal lawsuit that will take place in April 2019.

The group is suing the school board on behalf of seven families who allege widespread use of prayer on school property, during school events, in classrooms, at sporting events, at graduation ceremonies, during awards assemblies, and at student government meetings. It also alleges that school officials openly proselytize students in Christianity.

Guice said both parties are currently in the discovery stage part of the case at this time. If the court does not dismiss the case in favor of either party before the trial date, then the case will proceed to trial.

Federal Court Judge Hicks is set to preside over the case in Shreveport.

“The only way this will be resolved is by decision of the court. I don’t see the parties working this out,” said Guice.

The Bossier Parish School Board previously said in a statement that it would change policies and train all administrators, teachers and coaches in response to the lawsuit. In April, the board approved a nine page document that outlines procedures for both students and school employees and sets guidelines for student speakers at school events, students clubs, and how potential policy violation will be handled.

“I would like for the public to understand that these elected officials, which are our board members, are in a bind. They are duty bound, and they take their oath to follow the law, whatever that law may be. And they don’t choose what that is, regardless whatever individual faith our board members may have. They have not wavered from that faith. They are trying to do the best they can within the parameters of the law in recognition of the oath they took as a board member,” said Guice.

Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04) warned that Bossier Parish could become a cash cow for atheist groups across the country.

In a social media post last week, he said private investigators have been contracted to spy on Christian student groups at Benton High School.

In a Facebook post last week, Rep. Johnson says he received very credible information that atheist groups in California have contacted private investigators to hire them to get hidden video of activities at Bossier schools.

“Last night we received very credible information that atheist litigation groups in CA have contacted private investigators in our area to try to hire them to obtain hidden video of Christian student groups and activities at Benton High School and potentially other Bossier Parish schools,” the post said.

Guice said he is aware of the rumors, explaining, “There are rumors swirling around on who is doing what, when and how. We hear the rumors too. But do I or anyone else have evidence that that is going on? I cannot say that we do.”

The school board will meet again Thursday, Oct. 4.