Dec 17, 1999

A second West Monroe, La., family has joined a federal court challenge to officially sanctioned prayer in Louisiana public schools.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed suit in federal district court Dec. 3 challenging school-sanctioned prayer over the public address system in West Monroe High School. (A Louisiana state statute that allows teachers to set aside a moment for prayer was also challenged.)

Plaintiffs in the suit are a West Monroe mother and her son, who is a student at a Ouachita Parish high school. The two asked to remain anonymous out of concern about community reprisals.

Today the Doe v. Ouachita Parish School Board lawsuit has been amended to include a second West Monroe family. The father and mother of a junior high school student were added as plaintiffs in the case.

They say students at West Monroe Junior High School are asked to "stand for the prayer and the Pledge [of Allegiance to the Flag]" each Monday. A student then says a Christian prayer over the public address system, followed by the Pledge, with the approval of Principal James Aulds.

"School officials in Ouachita Parish schools are using students as mouthpieces to violate the Constitution," said Americans United Litigation Counsel Ayesha Khan. "They do not seem to appreciate the distinction between churches and public schools."

"A clear pattern emerges here," said Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU. "This school district has shown widespread disrespect for the separation of church and state. It's time for the courts to step in and remind them about the rule of law."