Louisiana school board tangles with ACLU over prayer

Posted: Friday, November 17, 2000

DERIDDER, La. (AP) -- The Louisiana affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union plans a federal lawsuit against the Beauregard Parish school board for allowing certain types of student-led prayers.

The district sent letters to parents asking permission for their children to participate in the disputed ''Partners in Prayer for Schools'' program, in which churches adopt classrooms and pray for their students. The ACLU responded when a parent objected.

The school board has also voted unanimously to allow ''nonsectarian, no-proselytizing, student-initiated voluntary prayer'' at school-related events. Many residents support public school prayer and opposed previous ACLU efforts.

School superintendent Myrna Cooley said the policy is based on an October decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed students of DeKalb County, Ala., to lead prayers at school functions, as long as school officials did not participate.

Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU, said that ruling was ''not settled law'' and in any case applies only to schools within the 11th circuit.

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