Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is coming to the defense of a public school accused of proselytizing students by hanging "prayer boxes" around campus and affixing its newsletter and website with religious messages, Fox10 reports.
The ACLU accuses Airline High School in Bossier Parish of pushing Christianity on students with "prayer boxes" that are placed throughout the school. The boxes say "prayer requests" and bear a Christian cross, the Friendly Atheist reports.
"I think it’s vital that we stand up and fight back against these attempts to trample on Louisianians’ right to freedom of religion," Vitter said in a statement to Fox10. "It’s quite clear that the ACLU fails to recognize that students have the right to pray in school as long as their praying does not interfere with the school’s teaching mission or with the rights of their fellow students. And trying to keep a principal from saying ‘God Bless’ is just ridiculous."
The ACLU says the school is crossing the line.
"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 ACLU wrote in a letter. "
The ACLU went on to note that a message posted to the school's website by the principal closed with the phrase "May God bless you all" and that an organization called Fellowship of Christian Athletes put the prayer boxes up with the knowledge and consent of school administrators.
"The Constitution forbids school-sponsored prayer in order to protect those whose convictions differ from government-sanctioned beliefs. Public school employees are not entitled to use their government positions to promote and impose their personal religious beliefs on students. When school staff crosses the constitutional line, as the Airline principal has done by religious messaging and encouraging prayer, the courts have declared these activities unlawful," the ACLU wrote, citing case law.
The last time Vitter weighed in on a social issue, the backlash was swift. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all U.S. states Vitter responded by tweeting a picture of himself eating food at anti-gay fast food chain Chick Fil-A. Internet users were quick to troll him in response.
In 2007, Vitter was accused of visiting a brothel belonging to "D.C. Madame" Deborah Jeane Palfrey and another in Louisiana.