By Nigel Boys
When they heard that Jason Rowland, the Principal of Airline High School in Benton, Louisiana was referencing God and Christianity on school grounds, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately complained to the school board.
In their letter last month to the superintendent of the Bossier Parish School System, the ACLU demanded that Rowland stop his illegal practice of promoting Christianity forthwith and to remove all references of God from the school’s website. However, their demands were recently rejected by the school board, according to Christian News.net.
“This letter is to inform you that these practices violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and comparable provisions of the Louisiana Constitution, and they must stop immediately,” the correspondence from the ACLU read.
The ACLU demanded that students remove prayer request boxes on the school’s campus after it was alleged that the student-led Fellowship of Christian Athletes had been doing so. They also accused Rowland of using the phrase “God bless you all” on the school website, another practice the ACLU demanded be stopped.
“The United States Constitution requires public schools to ensure that state-supported activity is not used for religious indoctrination,” the ACLU letter continued. “When school staff crosses the constitutional line… the courts have declared these activities unlawful. There is no question that the principal has violated these legal mandates by invoking God, prayer, and Christianity in school publications and on school grounds.”
Although the Bossier School Board found that the prayer boxes had not been initiated as of yet, they found that if and when they were, it should be allowed because it was the idea of the students and not school authorities.
“The board’s counsel has investigated the allegations raised by the ACLU and found them to be without a factual or legal basis,” an October 1 statement from the board rejecting the ACLU’s demands and assertions read.
“At the same time, the board wishes to publicly reaffirm its intent to operate a successful school district in which equal access is recognized and the legal rights of all students are respected, including those of its students who wish to engage in student-led, student-initiated religious expression,” the statement continued.
The board also cleared Prinicipal Rowland of any wrongdoing, finding the ACLU’s claims that he was proselytizing to be unfounded.
In an interview with the Shreveport Times, board member Dennis Bamburg said “As the facts of the case we didn’t think we had any problems, so no corrective action is being taken because we don’t have problems.”
In a further uphold the student’s religious rights, the board unanimously passed a resolution which reads as follows:
“Now therefore be it resolved that the Bossier Parish School Board does hereby proclaim to the citizens of Bossier Parish, the citizens of the State of Louisiana, and to freedom-loving Americans everywhere that in Bossier Parish schools the constitutional and statutory rights of students to engage in student-led, student-initiated religious expression shall be respected, allowed and defended.”
James Michael Johnson, otherwise known as Mike Johnson, a constitutional attorney from Benton, Louisiana and a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 8 in northern Bossier Parish, also had something to say.
“What the enemy meant for evil, God is certainly turning around for good,” said Johnson as he attended a rally in support of Airline High School, along with hundreds of other supporters on Saturday. “They have kicked awake a sleeping giant, and we need to keep this momentum going,” he added as he joined others in praying and listening to speeches from local leaders.
Offering to provide free legal representation in the matter, Johnson, who leads a legal organization name Freedom Guard, previously sent a letter to the parish superintendent asserting that the ACLU is wrong.
“As usual, the ACLU is wrong on both the facts and the law,” Johnson wrote. Stating that Rowland’s use of “God bless you all” is “an innocuous reference to our religious heritage,” he added that students were well within their rights to place prayer boxes if they wished to do so.
Principal Rowland was also shown support during a Friday night football game where some spectators wore T-shirts emblazoned with, “We support Mr. Rowland” and “$IStandWithAHS.”