Today the ACLU Foundation ofLouisiana filed its seventh lawsuit against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and its members, for once again adopting a policy unlawfully favoring public prayer. This time the issue is prayer at school board meetings.
In August, 2007, the TPSB adopted a policy inviting clergy from "religious congregations with an established presence in the local community" to give invocations immediately prior to school board meetings. Only clergy selected by the School Board president may preside over the prayer, which means that the School Board chooses which religions are acceptable, favoring some over others, unlawfully favoring religion, and creating the appearance of favoring certain members of the community over others. In addition, members of the public who wish to attend School Board meetings are faced with the choice of listening to a prayer from a faiththey may notshare, or risking missing part of the meeting.
"Yet again the Tangipahoa Parish School Board has indicated that it favors some residents over others, and would rather waste taxpayer money on litigation than follow the law," said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana. "The Constitution does not permit school boards to endorse or promote religion, because the government must remain neutral to religion. The Tangipahoa Parish School Board is well aware of this bedrock legal principle, but chooses to flout the law rather than to obey it." ACLU Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman said "It's a shame that the school board would rather spend its money on litigation rather than on educating its children. By now its members should have learned that unlawfully promoting religion is not in the best interest of the community."
As have many prior suits against the TPSB, this one is filed anonymously by "John Doe," because the plaintiff and his family fear retribution from the School Board and the community. Cooperating attorney Ron Wilson is handling the lawsuit for the ACLU.