FFRF Files Federal Lawsuit Against Praying School Board in Chino Valley, California

If you attend a meeting of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education (in California), you’d think you were at a church service.

School boards, unlike city councils, are not supposed to have prayer of any sort because children are often present. But these board members never got the memo:

… CVUSD Board of Education President James Na said [at a meeting] “our lives begin in the hospital and end in the church, and urged everyone who does not know Jesus Christ to go and find Him.” Mr. [Andrew] Cruz “closed by reading Psalm 143.”

In fact, there’s a Bible verse read at most meetings:

The meetings also have plenty of references to the Christian God. And for that reason, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit against the district late last week.

The plaintiffs “feel that the government is taking sides against them on religious questions,” and view the prayers, bible readings, and proselytizing as state-endorsed religion. The board is excessively entangled with religion, alleges the complaint, noting there is no secular or educational purpose for prayers, bible readings, or proselytizing. FFRF contends this violates the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the California Constitution.

FFRF repeatedly attempted to resolve these constitutional violations without litigation. FFRF originally contacted the board on Sept. 14, 2013, asking it to stop scheduling prayers at its meetings. The board responded on Oct. 7, 2013, refusing the request.

Plaintiffs include a student in the district, two parents, and a district employee — so at least standing won’t be a problem. The issue here is that you have board members who don’t know the difference between church and state. They see school board meetings as an extension of the pulpit, where everyone in the room is just a target for proselytization no matter the age. (FFRF is looking for additional plaintiffs, too! Let me know if you’re in that district and I’ll put you in touch with them.)

It’s hard to see how the school board comes away victorious. And, unfortunately, it’s the students who will ultimately suffer because of the selfishness of the board members.

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