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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bibles on the Bayou

Earlier this week, a federal district court judge in Louisiana ordered the rural Tangipahoa Parish School Board to stop allowing the Gideons to pass out pocket bibles to fifth graders during school hours.  The ruling came in response to a suit filed by the local chapter of the ACLU, one of seven suits filed in recent years challenging such violations of the Establishment Clause.  Other Tangipahoa School District practices challenged have included: (1) Disclaimers placed in science books stating that evolution is a theory that does not necessarily disprove creationism; (2) Schools allowing a minister to give out pizza and teach Christianity on school grounds during lunch periods; (3) Prayers said over the intercom, at school-sponsored events such as football games, and at school board meetings; and (4) Prayers led by a teacher in the classroom.

Two of the cases are still pending.  In all of the others, the ACLU has won or obtained a favorable settlement.  What is really remarkable is that despite their repeated losses in the courts, and the expenditure of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, public officials in Tangipahoa simply cannot be deterred from their attempts to introduce religion into the schools.  The School Board has already announced that it plans to appeal the bible case to the Fifth Circuit. In several instances, the ACLU has had to seek contempt sanctions against the School Board for refusing to comply with court orders.  And the School Board continues to look for ways to impose its religious beliefs on public school students.  It is a kind of defiance to federal law that is reminiscent of earlier battles over desegregation.

Posted by Stuart Green on April 24, 2008 at 09:55 AM in First Amendment | Permalink


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