February 2018 Church & State - February 2018

La. Issues Religion-In-School Guidelines 

  Rokia Hassanein

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry released guide­lines for students’ religious expression in public schools.

The guidelines in the “Louisiana Student Rights Review” note that students may express their religious beliefs, but only under the condition that those expres­sions are “student-led, student-initiated and voluntary.” The guidelines, released Jan. 2, came a month after a stud­ent’s mother sued the Webster Parish School District for promoting school-sponsored prayer at ath­letic events and graduations.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Bruce Hamilton, who filed the lawsuit against the school district, said that Landry’s guidelines overlook “an equally important portion of the First Amendment.”

“In other words, Louisiana schools are more likely to hinder religious freedom by imposing religious views on students, not by preventing students’ religious practices. Perhaps Mr. Landry would better serve the citizens of Louisiana by addressing that problem,” Hamilton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Americans United has stated many times that stud­ents in public schools have the right to engage in volun­tary, non-disruptive religious expression, including pray­ers, but they can’t be compelled to take part in religious exercises.

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The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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