School Board Member in Chino Valley (California) Invokes Terrorist Attacks to Defend Prayers During Meetings

A couple of months ago, I posted about the Chino Valley Unified School District (in California), where Board of Education meetings resembled church services.

That’s not an exaggeration at all. Here’s just a snippet of what a meeting looked like:

… 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:

We’re not even talking about a generic God (which still wouldn’t be okay). We’re talking about the Christian one. For that reason, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit against the district back in November.

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.

Things haven’t gotten any better in the past several weeks.

At their latest meeting, the Board of Education voted 3-2 in favor of finding an attorney to “defend the board without pay” against the legal challenge, clearly not realizing that while Christian legal groups won’t charge them, the school district will be on the hook for FFRF’s legal fees when they lose. (And the school district will lose.)

To make matters worse, board member Andrew Cruz invoked the recent terrorism attacks in Paris to defend prayers:

At the end of the meeting, Cruz expressed his dismay at the leadership of the country and encouraged people to examine American leadership in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

“What is happening today, what the terrorists are doing, but what is really important is that you can’t look at the direction of the terrorist, you’ve got to look at the direction of our leaders because what our leaders are doing is they are eroding our rights and they’re also moving away from God,” Cruz said. “It’s so bizarre when you really think about it, that a century ago they had people who were promoting freedom, our rights, and now things have changed dramatically.”

I have no idea what any of that means… it’s basically a word salad made of right-wing talking points.

Needless to say these school board members don’t give a damn about the students. If they did, they’d stop wasting money on making sure their religion is promoted through the district. If they have good lawyers, they’ll stop fighting this losing battle and get back to the work they were elected to do.

(Portions of this article were published earlier. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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