NEW ORLEANS — The Tangipahoa Parish School Board has been held in civil
contempt of court by a federal judge for violating an August 2004 agreement over
The order, issued last week by U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, does not
specifically name any school official as being in contempt, but orders the
school board to pay attorneys fees to the plaintiffs who filed the motions.
The American Civil Liberties Union is representing a parent and two children
who complained about prayers in Tangipahoa Parish public schools. They are
unnamed in court documents.
The ACLU and the school board have tangled for three years over the proper
role of religiously worded invocations at school events and then overseeing them
through the consent order that attempted to settle the question.
Berrigan rejected the idea that student-initiated prayers or prayers said at
off-campus events would comply with the prayer agreement. At issue were two
school banquets in 2005 in which students offered prayers.
ACLU officials said the decision upheld religious neutrality in the schools.
School officials said they disagreed with the ruling, but would abide by the
order until they could consult with their attorney.