Louisiana school board president mixes state, church

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter of complaint on behalf of a local complainant to School Board President Mike Delesdernier of Jefferson Parish Public Schools, Harvey, La., regarding Delesdernier's alleged religious references at staff meetings and in emails.

FFRF Staff Attorney, Stephanie Schmitt's Sept. 14 letter noted that Delesdernier reportedly referenced "God" during mandatory teacher inservices Aug. 11-12. Delesdernier also mentioned the bible at least six times during the speech and told a story about Cain and Abel.

"The meetings were required as part of teacher preparation week and your speech included several Christian references. Therefore, the meetings appear to a reasonable observer to be a district endorsement of religion, particularly Christianity. This is exactly the type of government endorsement that is prohibited by our Constitution’s Establishment Clause," wrote Schmitt.

"It is grossly inappropriate to for government employees to include religious references as part of an official email. It is our information and understanding that you have sent emails to Jefferson Parish faculty and staff, using your school email account, indicating that you are 'praying' for them. We further understand that references to “God” were also communicated in these emails," noted Schmitt.

Using Christian references as a guide to teaching does not respect all faiths and non faith or the Constitution, Schmitt noted, quoting from the Supreme Court case, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett. “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

FFRF, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is the nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 17,000 members, including many in Louisiana. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend