Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mom sues school district alleging promotion of Christianity

USA Today NetworkNick Wooten, The (Shreveport, La.) Times

Published 7:42 p.m. ET Dec. 18, 2017 | Updated 8:00 p.m. ET Dec. 18, 2017

(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

SHREVEPORT, La. — A mom sued her daughter's school district Monday, alleging pervasive promotion of Christianity.

The lawsuit details more than 30 specific incidents of allegedly unconstitutional use of religion in schools, including science teachers calling evolution a "fairy tale," teachers waving a Bible at students while criticizing a card game, and teachers punishing or criticizing students who refused to participate in classroom prayers.

Christy Cole of Sibley, La., filed her federal lawsuit on behalf of her daughter, Kaylee, a junior at Lakeside Junior/Senior High School in Sibley, according to the filing.

"Ms. Cole was raised as a Baptist and deeply values her religious beliefs," the lawsuit said. "She objects to and is offended by Defendants' conduct because it promotes beliefs to which she and her daughter do not subscribe, co-opts her faith for official government purposes, promotes religious favorites, and usurps her role."

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Lawyer Bruce Hamilton with the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed the suit in U.S. District Court here. Named as defendants are the Webster Parish School District board, Superintendent Johnny Rowland and Lakeside Principal Denny Finley.

Roland declined to comment for the district, saying he had not seen the lawsuit. The school board president, Johnnye Kennon, could not be reached for comment.

“I believe that praying in public is a sin and that our religious faith is between us and God. The government simply has no business strong-arming my daughter into practicing a certain faith.”Christy Cole, Sibley, La.

The lawsuit identifies Cole's daughter only as K.C. In a brief telephone interview, Cole said her daughter's name is Kaylee. She declined to comment further.

"As a parent, I was alarmed and offended that the school district would pressure my daughter into reciting prayers and participating in religious rituals that she doesn’t believe in," Cole said in a statement provided by the ACLU.

"I believe that praying in public is a sin and that our religious faith is between us and God," Cole said. "The government simply has no business strong-arming my daughter into practicing a certain faith.”

"The Webster Parish School District has a longstanding custom, policy, and practice of promoting and inculcating Christian religious beliefs by sponsoring religious activities and conveying religious messages to students, including by broadcasting prayers daily over school speakers," according to the lawsuit.

Promoting religion has become so ingrained in district schools that "virtually all school events," including sports games, pep rallies, assemblies and graduations, have school-sponsored Christian prayers, religious messages or proselytizing, the lawsuit alleges.

Kaylee Cole was raised Baptist and Methodist but now considers herself agnostic, according to the lawsuit.

"K.C. has been mocked by teachers for questioning religious doctrine they espoused," the lawsuit alleges. "And she feels ostracized among her peers for her recent acts of dissent and because she does not share the religious beliefs promoted by her teachers and her school. ... Her experience of her schools' religious practices has made her depressed, exhausted, upset, and distraught."

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