Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced Tuesday a new booklet has been created and will be distributed to provide guidance on religious expression in public schools.
"Despite court ruling after court ruling affirming our constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression, there remains confusion on the practical application of those rights in public schools," Landry said in a news release. "So Congressman (Mike) Johnson and I have put this publication together to help answer some of the most frequently asked questions and misconceptions about the law in this area."
“Louisiana Student Rights Review” will be sent as a hard copy to all school superintendents in Louisiana, the release said. A digital copy of the publication can be downloaded at www.agjefflandry.com/Home/GetRelatedFile?articleId=2697.
"It is important to remember that our Constitution and laws protect the rights of students to live out their faith on campus," Johnson said in the release. "Religious liberty is the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights, and the next generation of Americans needs to be encouraged to preserve it."
The booklet, copyrighted by the Louisiana Department of Justice, is set up in a question-and-answer format with three main sections.
The introduction says, “Although the government is prohibited from sponsoring religious activities in schools, the Constitution fully protects the free speech and religious expression of students. Courts have determined there is an important distinction between government speech attributed to a school district or its employees and the private speech of students. Unlike the government, students may share and promote their religious beliefs and freely live out their faith.”
Part I looks at student rights to religious expression, including general guidelines, if students can pray in various scenarios, if they can hand out religious materials and if religious clothing is allowed. This section also deals with calling parties or performances “Christmas” events and if the Bible can be used in classrooms.
Part II is about the rights of religious student organizations. Essentially, the answers say religious clubs have the same rights as others groups on campus and give advice on how to resolve the issue if access is denied to the group.
Part III looks at involvement with religious student organizations. Can school employees be involved? Can people outside the school speak to the group? Can teachers have their own prayer group?
The booklet has references to case law, as well as quoting the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Louisiana’s constitution on the establishment of religion.
It also has a one-page summary of guidelines for the expression of religion in public schools and a link to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance on the issues. The federal guidance can be found at ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html.