ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Region 8 School - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Doniphan, MO -- Heather Flanigan Reports

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Region 8 School

August 4, 2006 - Posted at 5:18 p.m. CDT

DONIPHAN, MO -- The Doniphan School District, two prayers and the ACLU...it's all a combination for a lawsuit filed last week against the Region 8 School. 

A mother filing legal papers under the pseudonym "Janice Doe" is suing the district claiming the first amendment rights of her and her children were violated after they attended mandatory in-school assemblies and were subjected to teacher-led Christian prayer.

The prayers in question were given on May 18th and 19th during two separate elementary school assemblies to recognize students with good grades and attendances.  The prayers consisted of a request that "Jesus Christ bless the children," a request for students and visitors to "bow their heads as we pray to the Lord" and a concluding statement of "in Jesus' name we pray, amen." But it was Region 8 mother who did not agree with those statements.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri contacted the Doniphan School about the incidents and Superintendent Kevin Sandlin acknowledged the prayers had occurred.

"This is something that the Supreme Court said 40, 50 years ago you don't do and I think most schools know that and don't do it," said ACLU Legal Director Tony Rothert. "Those things did happen," said Sandlin, "We do have prayers and I told them that I disagree with the law behind the policy that we have that dictates that we can't do that but I assured them that we would comply with the policy."

The school's policy states that religious education is the responsibility of the home and church...and the espousal by any staff or teacher is strictly forbidden.

"It's never been made an issue of," said Sandlin, "Yes, there have been prayer in the schools before on various occasions on various activities, honors, assemblies, graduations, sports banquets and things like that.  This is the first time it's ever been an issue that's been brought to my attention."

"What we are primarily asking for is an injunction requiring the school to change its practice of having teacher led prayer during school banned," said Rothert.

Sandlin says while this conservative bible-belt community supports the idea of prayer in school, he has no choice but to follow the policy and the law.

"I have every intention of complying with the policy.  That's my job, that's what I do," said Sandlin.

"It's actually troubling to us that there seems to be just diminished concerns about people's civil liberties," said Rothert.

The case is expected to be handled in federal court in Cape Girardeau.  A hearing is scheduled for September 19th.

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