Hundreds Flood School Board Meeting in Support of Appeal of Court Order to End Prayer Practice

Photo Credit: KCAL-TV

CHINO HILLS, Calif. — Hundreds cheered as a California school board voted on Monday on which law firm they would hire to represent them in an appeal against an atheist lawsuit that resulted in a court order that the board stop praying before meetings and speaking about Christianity in their remarks.

As previously reported, in November 2014, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a 49-page lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education. The organization took issue with the board’s practice of opening meetings with invocations, which they argued is a violation of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

“The Chino Valley School Board begins each meeting with a prayer,” FFRF wrote in its legal challenge. “Indeed the meetings resemble a church service more than a school board meeting, complete with Bible readings by the board members, Bible quotations by board members, and other statements by board members promoting the Christian religion.”

The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a non-profit organization committed to defending religious freedom, stood with the Chino school board and defended the prayers in court. PJI President Brad Dacus said “some of the board members are very committed to their faith” and argued that their religious freedoms were protected by law.

“In a free society we can’t have freedom from religion but freedom of religion, and that’s what this lawsuit’s all about,” Dacus told One News Now.

But last month, U.S. District Court Judge Jesus Bernal, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, sided with FFRF, saying the prayers at the school board meetings “constitute unconstitutional government endorsements of religion.”

“[M]embers of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education … are hereby enjoined from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school-sponsored prayer in board meetings,” Bernal ordered.

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Last Thursday, the board voted 3-2 to appeal the ruling, a move that FFRF noted could be costly.

“An appeal could take another two years, given the backlog in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the total fees and costs for a simple appeal would probably be $350,000,” attorney Andrew Seidel wrote in a statement. “The board members shouldn’t let their faith trump good sense.”

But on Monday, board members met to vote on who would be selected to provide legal representation. The chosen firm, Tyler and Bursh, will offer assistance pro bono. According to reports, hundreds of area residents flooded both the inside and outside of the building to express support—with many holding signs that simply read “Pray!”

Some spoke before the board.

“Continue doing what you’re doing,” Gail Blake-Smith of Released Time Christian Education exhorted. “God is on your side.”

Board member James Na expressed his thankfulness for the community support.

“I want to say I appreciate each of you being here and standing up for righteousness,” he said.

As the board voted 3-2 on its selection of a law firm in moving forward with the appeal, the crowd burst into cheers.

“[The ruling is] a chipping away at every right we have,” Mayor Art Bennett told the Daily Bulletin. “The judge not only outlawed Scripture reading in the course of a meeting, he said the prayer at the start of the meeting is illegal. We’ve got to stand our ground and go forward. It’s a spiritual fight.”

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  • Mike Laborde

    The brown shirts of the Hitler party continues it’s work of communism in every place in America. The ovens will soon be built.

    • gizmo23

      Hitler claimed to be and used Christians.

      • Mike Laborde

        Hitler was just that, a counterfeit Christian. And so called “christians” worshiped him instead of the true God of the bible. As does Satan , who comes a a wolf in sheeps clothing so did Hitler.

        • gizmo23

          We often fall for people and are 100 percent certain they are Christian until they do something wrong. To put so much faith in people of power is folly

          • Mike Laborde

            If you really know the Creator, (the truth). He says,”That you will know them by their fruit. When people fall for “someone” they are falling for the wrong someone. Fall for Jesus. You will not be wrong in that.

        • Mythblaster

          Mike –
          Whoa, son… are you off your meds again?

          • Mike Laborde

            No. Actually, I took my cough medicine, my anti biotic, my nasal spray , etc. for this sinus infection son. I would suggest that you take a plethera of truth and knowledge before you post non truths.

        • George T

          Mike Laborde: The typical “No true Scotsman” fallacy. So you’ll be supporting Bernie Sanders, right? The fruits of his labors are more in line with Jesus than any Ayn Rand worshiping Republican Party candidate.

    • acontraryview

      I don’t think its reasonable to compare these Christians to the brown shirts of the Hitler party.

      • George T

        acontraryview: Mike isn’t reasonable, so that would make sense.

        • Mike Laborde

          George T. I see that you are lying behind my back George. Jesus loves you George.

          • George T

            Mike Laborde: Jesus is dead, so I sincerely doubt that. Also, given your grossly inaccurate and hyperbolic description of our nation I think the descriptor *reasonable* should never be applied to you.

          • Mike Laborde

            There you go again George. Speaking untruths to the air. Jesus is alive and well. New movie coming out next month. “Gods not Dead II”. You would gain from it. Jesus loves you George. More than you will ever know.

          • George T

            Mike Laborde: Yes, I’m aware of the original inaccurate movie and this new work of fiction. I would only gain a headache from seeing what Christians *assume* atheists are like.

          • Mike Laborde

            George; you really need to see how atheist miss the mark by light years. You might find the way, the truth and the life in it. Ah, come on George, do yourself a favor and watch the movie. You won’t get a headache. You will find out the truth. The real truth. Jesus loves you George. I’ll even send you a free ticket. Accept Jesus today.

          • George T

            Mike Laborde: From all reports I read this new movie builds an even more inaccurate “straw man” caricature of atheists. Given that they have to create an exaggerated parody of a villain to justify the story, I’m not inclined to waste my time.

          • Mike Laborde

            George T’ Well of course you will believe your atheist friends and what they say. That is your mind set George. What’s wrong George? Afraid to go and watch the movie , afraid that the truth will set you free and that you could become converted. The truth can set you free from sin and death George. Jesus loves you , He died for your sins. Sin will take you farther than you want to go George. Accept Jesus today, you will never be the same.

          • George T

            Mike Laborde: No, I’m not afraid that this ridiculous movie will convert me (^_^) It seems to be just as inaccurate as the first movie. The premise of both movies are based on the hilarious parodies of what Christians think atheists think. In this one the premise isn’t even possible, as a teacher wouldn’t be taken to court for a minor infraction. Any judge would throw that case out.

            But hey, you enjoy reinforcing your flawed perception of atheists and atheism (^_^)

          • Mike Laborde

            George T.
            Jesus still loves you. And he will be knocking at your heart until you draw your very last breath. Accept Him today George, you will never be the same.

      • Mike Laborde

        Me thinks that you need to read the real history of Hitler’s Germany. Then come back to me and apoligize.

        • George T

          Mike Laborde: Hitler was Christian and had his higher officers wear belt buckles saying “god with us”. So I’ll apologize. You’re right. We can compare these Christians to the brown shirts of the Nazi party.

        • acontraryview

          Me thinks not, on both of your suggestions.

          • Mike Laborde

            Only a suggestion, but you are still double downed wrong on the issue. Where did you learn such lies? From the Socialist that are running the socialist propaganda collages? Read up on real history.

          • acontraryview

            What lies do you believe I have learned?

    • tatoo

      Communism is the opposite of facsim which Hitler was. You are obviously a low information person.

      • Mike Laborde

        Ha ha. What propaganda have you been listening to or reading. There is but a pin pricks different between the two. You must have studied history in the USSR. Ha.

  • Carlos

    Plenty of prayers were said by the men gathered in Philadelphia in 1776, even though many of them were not orthodox Christians. Strange that people “discovered” we were a secular country only in the 21st century, and yet it escaped the Founder’s notice.

    • gizmo23

      Maybe only Catholic prayers to Mary should be allowed

    • gogo0

      I enjoy drinking green tea, but I don’t force everyone in my office to drink green tea.

      there is a reason the constitution is written the way it is, unless you think the founding fathers actually intended to make America biblically-based but simply forgot to add that part, or if among all the careful planning and meticulous detail of everything else, adding “…endowed by their creator…” in the declaration of independence was their way of saying that America is a “christian nation”.

      funny that in “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, “creator” is used to justify christianity ruling America, yet the rest of it is ignored in the effort to oppress others.

    • gizmo23

      When was this golden time when we were a Christian nation?

    • Mythblaster

      The fact that we were founded as a secular nation was not recently discovered. It was the original intent (“our Creator” was mentioned, but not “God”, and Jesus didn’t even get a passing reference), but Christian’s numbers and influence grew through the centuries to the point where they felt they owned the place.

      Let me ask you a question. Does the fact that a majority of the U.S. population today is white make the U.S. a white nation? Correct answer is “Heck no!”

      Similarly, just because the majority of the U.S. population is Christian (today, anyway), does that make us a Christian nation? Say it with me again… heck no!

      Why is it that Christians are so hell-bent on dominating every aspect of public life, and in doing so marginalizing people of every other faith (or lack thereof)? Personally, I think they see their numbers dwindling, their political influence waning and they don’t want to face the reality that being a decent human being is now seen as a better gauge of a person’s character than whether or not they’re a Christian.
      Everybody’s free to pray all day, every day, anywhere and any way. But once you get inside a government building that serves EVERYBODY, your prayers had better be silent ones or you’re violating everyone else’s right to be free of unwanted religious speech.

  • The Skeptical Chymist

    There can be no freedom of religion without freedom from government-imposed religion. When the school board imposes Christian prayers on everyone present, complete with Bible readings by the board members, it is government-imposed religion. People at this site would understand this and be vehemently against it if it were Muslim or Hindu prayers that were being imposed on the attendees. And they would rightfully claim that the activity violates the First Amendment.

    This is an act of a Christian majority marking their territory. It is the act of a bully who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, and who is unconcerned with representing all of their constituents.

    • Mythblaster

      You know how words can change meaning over time? Like when someone says, “My head literally blew up!” They said “literally” but really meant “figuratively.”
      Similar to when people talk about “Christian behavior.” That used to mean kind, considerate, empathetic behavior. Christ-like. The new definition of Christian behavior is morphing into boorish, ignorant inconsiderate, intolerant, but otherwise well-meaning people.”
      Funny how so many Christians have become the least Christ-like people I know.

  • Carcosa

    it’s so cute that they think their opinion matter,

    • Gary Whiteman

      Decent people matter.

      • Carcosa

        no the law and Constitution matter, not your opinions

        • 1no Yamanaka

          What litterbox did they scoop you out of, Miss Tyrd?

          • Carcosa

            yes we are, you worthless opinion is not superior to the court or to the law and if you don’t like that then piss off you pathetic impostor

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Nobody is going to silence you, but the court IS going to forbid the prayer before school board meetings.

          • Asemodevs

            You phags and your little sorority sure stick together.
            You lonesome there in your trailer, piggy?

          • Ken M

            You poor bored little atheists. Nothing but hate.

          • B1jetmech

            Sounds like a violation of the 1st amendment.

          • Ambulance Chaser


          • B1jetmech

            The second half.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            There is no “second half.”

            Do you mean the Free Exercise Clause? No one is interfering with anyone’s free exercise here. Free exercise belongs to individuals, not governments.

          • B1jetmech

            So who is making government comply?

            BTW, the 1st amendment states “CONGRESS” not states.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Dude, if you’re this far behind on Constitutional jurisprudence, you should not be here, you should be back in high school studying Civics 101. The Incorporation Doctrine under the 14th Amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the states and all of their entities. I strongly recommend you look up “Incorporation Doctrine” and Everson v. Board of Education.

            I don’t know what “Who is making government comply?” means.

          • B1jetmech

            What part of the 1st amendment do you not understand?

            Why does the 1st amendment only mention CONGRESS?

            Here we go with the civil war amendment the 14th. It’s the only part of the Constitution that you guys know.

            Did you know at the founding of this nation, even the ratifying the of the Constitution, states had their own “Official denominations”? What ever happend to those?

            Did some court strike them down? No.

            Did Congress legislate against them? No.

            They went away on their own.

            “I don’t know what “Who is making government comply?” means”

            Making school faculty comply is what I meant to say here. You all are always so worried that Christianity will forced upon everyone in school…sigh.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I get that you don’t LIKE how the rulings have come down on this over the years, but that doesn’t make them any less real or binding. You can crow all day and all night about how the 14th Amendment wasn’t meant to do what it does, but it won’t change the fact that this is a settled matter, long ago put to rest by the Supreme Court, and upheld repeatedly.

          • B1jetmech

            No, I don’t like the court legislating form the bench. that is left to the certain branch of government. Because we are a nation of laws right?

            So we should just move along and forget about SCOTUS illegal ruling by abusing the 14th amendment? I don’t think so.

            Obviously if it was settled law then Former slaves wouldn’t have standing in court(Dred Scott decision)

            Segregation wold go on even longer(Plessy vs. Ferguson)

            And what’s up with the Kormatsu decision the upheld Japanese Americans having to stay in interment camps?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            “So we should just move along and forget about SCOTUS illegal ruling by abusing the 14th amendment? I don’t think so.”

            I don’t particularly care what you think about SCOTUS rulings regarding the 14th Amendment, only that you acknowledge they exist. Which, so far, you seem incapable of doing.

          • B1jetmech

            So if you don’t care what I think, then why do you respond? Why do you come to Christians websites?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I didn’t say I didn’t care what you think. I said I didn’t care what your opinion of any SCOTUS rulings were. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s opinion of them is.

            What I care about is whether you accept that they exist because, defying logic and reason, you seem to believe that your interpretation of the Constitution supersedes the Supreme Court’s. I have no idea why you persist in this belief, but it’s getting very frustrating.

          • Mythblaster

            Blather on to your heart’s content… in your home or church, but heed the words of Ambulance Chaser. The court WILL forbid prayer in your school board hearings.

      • Cady555

        Decent people respect our secular Constitution. Decent people respect the fact that other people exist. Decent people do not use government authority and government meetings to promote their religious beliefs.

        • Mythblaster

          I see what you’re doing here with the “decent people” trick… calling out the “indecent” people without using the “C” word.
          I like your style. ☺

      • Mythblaster

        But there are so few of them…

  • Chris Clayton

    The school district needs to start teaching civics. I would begin with the 1962 Supreme Court ruling that banned daily recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. I would continue by describing how the Bill of Rights are there to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. You can end the lesson about a school board that is about to waste $350,000 on a court case that they are bound to lose, given the facts above.

    Then again, it is easier to yell then to educate. Unfortunately, it can also be very costly, especially given a long series of court cases that go against their wishes to impose prayer on their fellow citizens.

    • Cady555

      I wish there were some way to make the board members personally liable. This money is going to come out of the school budget, which isn’t fair.

      • acontraryview

        The law firm they engaged is providing their counsel pro bono.

        • Cady555

          That means they do not have to pay their own lawyers. They still have to pay the opposing party’s legal fees plus damages when they lose. The case law is settled here. They will lose.

          This law firm is a non profit. They seek and accept donations. They will pump this case to rake in thousands of donations and leave the school district holding the bag. Win or lose makes no difference to them. Ask the Dover Independent School District in PA how their “free” legal services turned out. Ask a dozen other school districts left with huge legal bills.

          • acontraryview


      • tatoo

        It is fair because the board was elected by the taxpayers and they seem to like this.m so, they get punished. This way the kids will learn nothing and will grow up to be just like them, which is what they want.

        • Straight Shooter

          You are jealous of normal couples who are able to have children together.

      • Ambulance Chaser

        Unfortunately, this is why we have limited liability. Actions like these are the public sector version of the “corporate veil.”

    • Mythblaster

      Kudos on your comment. You hit the nail on the head. I suspect many law firms who represent school boards in these cases rely on the board’s ignorance of the risks they face.
      It’s a crying shame you’re not on this school board. Seriously. They could use a dose of rational thought and common sense.

  • Cady555

    The school board fails to understand what pro bono means. It means the school board won’t have to pay this law firm. The school board will still be on the hook for damages and legal fees when they lose.

    The law firm knows the case law. They know they are going to lose. They will do a ton of fundraising off of this case and walk off into the sunset with a pile of cash and leave Chino Valley to pay the bills and clean up the mess.

  • acontraryview

    What does Christian prayer have to do with the business of a school board? Why do some Christians believe they have to include their religion in government business?

  • DoorknobHead

    Only $350,000 to oppose the Constitution of the United States of America, and the church will not be held financially responsible, but the tax payers will be — which is just great, because state promotion of one brand of an ancient god narrative is more important than liberty and justice for all, but instead just liberty and justice and religious oppression opportunities for a few that are mentally handicapped by their human biases and faulty sense of reality. They are definitely good supporters of their religious dogma but not supportive for anyone outside their club. There is an inversely proportional relationship between forcing their religious views onto everyone through government and their being good citizens of the United States of America.

  • Mythblaster

    “Continue doing what you’re doing,” Gail Blake-Smith of Released Time Christian Education exhorted. “God is on your side.” SHE may well be, but the law of our land is not.
    Please, no tirades about what the Constitution does or does not say. That’s for the courts to decide. What supporters of school board prayers should focus on is FFRF’s success rate in this type of lawsuit. They RARELY lose. Please Google “FFRF vs Giles County Schools”… or just Google “FFRF successes.”
    The $350,000 Mr. Seidel cites is probably a conservative estimate, but if you have the funds to spare and feel your public expressions of faith outweigh the value of your children’s education… well, go for it. But you’ve been forewarned.

  • acontraryview

    What do Christian prayers have to do with the business of the school board? Why do some Christians feel the need to impose their religion on others?

    • Diaris

      If you think that a 30-second prayer “establishes a religion,” you have real problems.

      You religion-haters are very unhappy and malicious creatures. Your problem is that you sense that most religious people are happy, and like all unhappy, troubled souls, you envy those who have something you lack. So you go after those religious people, and instead of admitting that you are acting out of spite and envy, you use this fake pretext of being committed to the Constitution.

      We all see through you.

      • acontraryview

        “You religion-haters”

        What in my post would lead you to conclude that I am a “religion-hater”?

        “very unhappy and malicious creatures.”

        What in my post would lead you to conclude that I am “very and unhappy and malicious”?

        “like all unhappy, troubled souls,”

        What in my post would lead you to conclude that I am unhappy and troubled?

        “you envy those who have something you lack.”

        What in my post would lead you to conclude that I am envious of others?

        “So you go after those religious people”

        Where in my post did I “go after” religious people?

        “and instead of admitting that you are acting out of spite and envy”

        What in my post was spiteful or envious?

        “you use this fake pretext of being committed to the Constitution.”

        Where in my post did I mention the Constitution?

        “We all see through you.”

        Who is “we” and how is it you are empowered to speak for them?

      • tatoo

        If you want to have sex, get a room, if you want to pray, go to a church.

      • Josey

        I find it strange that atheists care about it at all since they do not believe so they say but put them in a fox hole or near death and they change their tune, it’s been said over and over. Why would an atheist care about some students praying at lunch times to a God they claim doesn’t exist? Hahahaha, they are so predictable.

    • B1jetmech

      How are Christians imposing their religion on others?

      • acontraryview

        Well, let’s see, I go to a school board meeting, the meeting starts, and then I am required to listen to a Christian prayer and readings from the Bible. That is imposing.

        • B1jetmech

          That is not imposing… Unless you are required to be there and required to listen. Never the less… I think you will be alright.

          • acontraryview

            School Board meetings are open to the public and their topics of discussion are important. How would one not listen when the praying is done out loud?

            Please tell me how Christian prayer is an essential part of the business of the school board.

          • B1jetmech


            How does praying obstruct or prevent business from going on?

            It was good enough for the Founders to start every morning with prayer then it’s good enough for everyone else

            If some atheist wants to read some quote at the start of a meeting, then go ahead.

          • acontraryview

            So you can’t cite how Christian prayer is an essential part of the business of the school board. Got it. Thanks for proving my point.

            “How does praying obstruct or prevent business from going on?”

            That’s not the point. The school board members are elected officials. They are there to represent all citizens, of all faiths, as well as no faith. Their purpose is to discuss and make decisions regarding schools. They are not there to promote a particular religious belief.

            I can only imagine the outcry of Christians if a majority of the board members were Muslim and opened each meeting with a Muslim prayer and provided readings from the Koran. “They are trying to force Islam on everyone”. “Why are they quoting the Koran…they should be focusing on school issues….not forcing their religion on everyone there.”


          • B1jetmech

            Do you even have a clue what Prayer is?

            It’s talking to God, asking him for protection, blessing, wisdom, peace…all these and more in making decisions that can better the future.

            Just because you don’t think you need God doesn’t mean the world can go on without him. The fact you are still alive and have the decision to repent of your sins…you ought to be thanking him because once you die, it’s appointed unto man to face judgement…you and him.

            Tell me something? Do you think you will spend eternity in Heaven? Because if you are unrepentant, you won’t.

            “The school board members are elected officials. They are there to represent all citizens, of all faiths, as well as no faith. Their purpose is to discuss and make decisions regarding schools. They are not there to promote a particular religious belief.”

            We are a melting pot. We don’t dissolve our national heritage and traditions for foreigners and secular activists.

            The board members are representing everyone when it comes to education. The money is equally spent on every student, so no one is being left behind. You all are just making a big stink out of nothing.

            “I can only imagine the outcry of Christians if a majority of the board members were Muslim…


            Then go somewhere else…no one is forcing you to be about insecurity.

          • acontraryview

            “Do you even have a clue what Prayer is?”

            Yes, I do.

            “all these and more in making decisions that can better the future.”

            How is that relevant to including prayer as a part of the official actions of a school board?

            “Just because you don’t think you need God”

            That is not what I think.

            ” it’s appointed unto man to face judgement…you and him.”

            You are certainly entitled to your beliefs.

            “Because if you are unrepentant, you won’t.”

            You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

            “We are a melting pot. We don’t dissolve our national heritage and traditions for foreigners and secular activists.”

            That is irrelevant to whether or not promoting the Christian belief system is part of the job of an elected school board.

            “Then go somewhere else…no one is forcing you to be about insecurity.”

            That is completely unrelated to my comment.

          • B1jetmech

            “How is that relevant to including prayer as a part of the official actions of a school board?”

            For anything edifying, better decision making, wisdom, ect. Hey if the creator of the universe is willing to offer anything to help…it’s available for the asking.

            “That is not what I think”

            What do you believe?

            “You are certainly entitled to your beliefs”

            You betcha…however, this is how the Lord structures it when we die.

            “That is irrelevant to whether or not promoting the Christian belief system is part of the job of an elected school board.”

            It’s every bit of relevant because we have been doing so before this nation was founded.

          • acontraryview

            “For anything edifying, better decision making, wisdom, ect. Hey if the creator of the universe is willing to offer anything to help…it’s available for the asking.”

            Those who believe that should take a moment before the meeting to ask for that assistance. it is not part of the duties of the school board to engage in seeking assistance.

            “What do you believe?”

            I have a strong belief in God.

            “this is how the Lord structures it when we die.”

            That is your belief as to how “the Lord structures it when we die”. Unless you ARE God, you cannot say so with certainty.

            “It’s every bit of relevant because we have been doing so before this nation was founded.”

            We did not have elected school boards “before this nation was founded”. Nor is the length of time that something has been done result in that action being relevant to the task at hand.

  • gui1hermegano

    Moderators, do some clean-up on this thread, some very abusive people posting here, this needs to stop.

  • tatoo

    It is going to cost the board $350,000 in the end. Hope the parents are happy that the budget will be cut.

    • kagl982

      Faith is hard to explain to people with no conscience.