District in Louisiana Continues To Defy High Court's Ban on

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The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (aclu) plans to file suit in federal district court against the Rapides Parish (La.) school board if school officials there continue to allow teachers to begin their classes each day with a voluntary prayer period.

Late in January, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that struck down the state's 1980 law allowing students and teachers to say prayers in the morning.

Defiance Publicized

Rapides Parish school officials have not only defied the court ban, but have gone out of their way to publicize their defiance, according to Martha Kegel, executive director of the Louisiana aclu branch.

"We felt compelled to act on this matter in light of the school board's extreme position on the matter," Ms. Kegel explained. "Not only is there clear evidence that prayer is being allowed in the schools, but the officials have gone to great lengths to state in the press" their conviction that the Supreme Court ruling does not preclude them from continuing their policy of allowing school prayer.

Rapides Parish school officials could not be reached for comment on the aclu's allegations.

Currently, the civil-rights group is attempting in the name of its six clients--three students and three parents--to persuade the school board to renounce its policy. If those attempts fail, according to Ms. Kegel, the lawsuit will be brought before the U.S. District Court for the Western Louisiana District sometime this summer.

Shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the state's school-prayer law, the Louisiana School Boards Association (lsba) adopted a resolution requesting that Congress pass a law overturning that ruling.

Last month, members of the state association came to Washington to persuade their state's Congressional delegation to support such a measure. According to Dorothy Smith, president of the lsba, the state's 10-member Congressional contingent "was quite receptive to our proposal.''

"They told us that they would do all that they could to see that such a measure would be adopted," said Ms. Smith.--T.M.

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