Bossier wrestles with question of prayer at school graduations

Bossier wrestles with question of prayer at school graduations
(Source: Jeff Ferrell/KSLA)
(Source: Jeff Ferrell/KSLA)

BOSSIER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - The Bossier Parish School Board came out of executive session Thursday night and voted to stand behind student prayer at graduation ceremonies.

The issue was pushed to a vote when a national nonprofit demanded that the School District stop the praying, calling it a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"We feel like the students have every right, given by the courts, to pray as long as long as it's their decision," School Board President Bill Lott said.

The latest debate began with a complaint about student-led prayer at the beginning and end of Benton High's graduation in May.

A letter from Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State asks the Bossier board to ensure that future graduation ceremonies contain no prayers nor religious sermons.

School Board members Thursday instructed the district's legal team to respond with letter focusing on these two points:

  1. the nonprofit's letter of complaint contained factual errors, and,
  2. the law is on the students' and School Board's side.

Attorney Jon Guice said he immediately will begin drafting the School Board's response and hopes to have the letter finalized early next week, possibly as soon as Monday.

Congressman Mike Johnson, a constitutional law attorney, was at the School Board meeting and agrees with school officials' two  points.

"They make a habit of overstating the law," he said of the nonprofit.

"They wish that all religious expression were illegal, but it's not. And the Supreme Court's made that very clear even in recent cases the last couple of years."

The School Board did not publicly specify what mistakes the nonprofit made in its demand letter.

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