Lawsuit: Louisiana School District Promotes Religion

Webster Parish School District taken to court

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Promotion of religion is "engrained" in a Louisiana school district, a parent said in a federal lawsuit, and her family has been shunned and criticized for objecting to religious activities.

Christy Cole's lawsuit seeks a court declaration that the Webster Parish School District's practices are unconstitutional, and an order blocking them and retaliation against her family.

"The Coles have been hissed at, shunned, and had their religious beliefs questioned by school officials," said the lawsuit, filed Monday in Shreveport. "The family has been made to feel like outsiders and second-class citizens within the school community because they object to the schools' religious activities."

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Webster Parish schools superintendent Johnny Rowland Jr. said Tuesday he hasn't yet seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment on it.

Cole's suit said unconstitutional promotion of religion in the northwest Louisiana district includes Christian prayers at athletic events, pep rallies and assemblies.

"Graduation ceremonies are frequently held in houses of worship, and at times they resemble religious rituals that include Bible verses and Christian prayers," the suit said.

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American Civil Liberties Union lawyers filed the lawsuit. The suit said Cole was raised Baptist and believes "praying in public is a sin." It said one of her two daughters considers herself an agnostic. Both have refused to read prayers when selected by teachers or administrators to do so.

-By Kevin McGill, Associated Press

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