AU Tells La. School To Drop Its Practice Of Official Graduation Prayers

Americans United informed a Louisiana school district that prayers delivered by students at a high school graduation ceremony this past May violated the U.S. Constitution.

AU received a complaint from a concerned person that Benton High School, which is part of Bossier Parish Schools near Shreveport, allowed students to deliver prayers to begin and end the May 20 graduation ceremony.

AU sent the district a letter in June and followed up with a second letter on Sept. 1 after receiving no response. AU urged the district to end the prayer practice because it violates the First Amendment by communicating the public school district’s endorsement of a particular religion and by coercing students to participate in a religious exercise.

“Because students are impressionable and their attendance at school is mandatory, courts are ‘particularly vigilant in monitoring compliance with the Establishment Clause in elementary and secondary schools,’” AU’s first letter noted, quoting a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case that dealt with religion in schools. “Parents – not school officials – are entitled to direct the religious upbringing of their children.”

The Bossier Parish school board, during a Sept. 21 meeting, indicated they don’t plan to end the graduation prayers, according to the Shreve­port Times.