2011 Press Releases

5.20.2011: ACLU Urges Bastrop High School to Keep Graduation Prayer Free

The ACLU of Louisiana has urged the Principal of Bastrop High School to respect the First Amendment and ensure that tonight's graduation does not include a prayer as originally proposed. Bastrop High senior Damon Fowler objected to the planned prayer, because it violates his right to a ceremony free of government-endorsed religion. After he complained to school authorities - and said he would contact the ACLU if necessary - school officials removed the prayer from the program.

In amending the program, school officials suggested that Mr. Fowler, and other students who object to school-sponsored prayer, should respect the majority of their classmates. "The First Amendment prohibition on government endorsement of religion exists to protect the minority from the majority," said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director. "Freedom of religion belongs to everyone, not just those whose views may be more popular than others."

The rehearsal for the Bastrop High graduation included a student praying with reference to Jesus Christ. The prayer was listed in the graduation program, which had to be reprinted at taxpayer expense. "Taxpayers should not have to spend money fixing problems caused by violations of the law," said Esman. "Public school officials must remember that they have a duty to uphold the law, to protect the rights of all of their students, and that any failure to do so costs money that should be spent in the classroom.

Religious freedom has flourished in this country because we do not allow the government to promote one faith over others."

A copy of the ACLU's letter is available here.