Louisiana Governmental Department Agrees to Keep Emails Secular

An employee of Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent a mass e-mail on May 7, 2009, via the statewide e-mail system to invite government employees to attend a National Day of Prayer observance—specifically to “pray for our state and our country”—at the DEQ headquarters. The e-mail included a “God bless you,” and stated that DEQ administration cooperated in hosting the event at the DEQ building. FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca S. Markert (then Kratz) wrote a letter to DEQ Secretary Harold Leggett, who authorized the prayer event, pointing out that it was “grossly illegal and inappropriate for DEQ to be hosting, organizing, supporting or otherwise promoting a patently religious event.” Markert cited Establishment Clause concerns and noted that the misuse of the government e-mail system violated DEQ’s own Computer System Usage Policy, which requires the computer “be used primarily for official business purposes in furtherance of the DEQ agency mission.” The Office of the Secretary responded with a letter, which noted, “The Department has warned its employees against the unauthorized use of state equipment or facilities for private purposes. . . . We appreciate the opportunity to respond to this important issue of public concern.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation