California School Board Votes to Place Limits on Christian Prayer, Bible Citations During Public Meetings

chino-valley-compressedCHINO, Calif. — A school board in California has voted to place limits on when and how Christianity may be discussed during public meetings.

The move by the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education comes in the midst of a legal battle with the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which took issue two years ago with the board’s practice of opening meetings with prayer, as well as numerous incidents of members citing the Bible.

“As the elected legislative body of the Chino Valley Unified School District, the board of education recognizes that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees each person’s individual right to free exercise of religion or non-religion, and prevents the government and other public officials from establishing a religion or non-religion,” its new policy, approved unanimously on Thursday, reads.

“During the public portion of the board meeting, board members may discuss religion or religious perspectives to the extent that they are germane to agenda items or public comments,” it states. “When acting in their official capacities and when speaking on behalf of the district, board members shall not proselytize, and shall be neutral toward religion and/or non-religion.”

Attorneys for the board had reportedly recommended adopting the language.

As previously reported, in November 2014, FFRF filed a 49-page lawsuit against the board, asserting that it was in 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.”

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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.

But in February, 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.

The board appealed and obtained new legal counsel—Tyler and Bursh of Murietta.

“I trust this is a good first step toward balancing and understanding the complexities of the First Amendment for this board,” Vice President Sylvia Orozco told reporters last week following Thursday’s vote to approve the new policy.

As previously reported, throughout America’s early history, a number of the Founding Fathers issued proclamations calling inhabitants to prayer, including in 1798, when President John Adams proclaimed a national day of humiliation, prayer and fasting.

“As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him,” he wrote, “…this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty and of danger, when existing or threatening calamities—the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity—are a loud call to repentance and reformation.”

President Abraham Lincoln also proclaimed a National Fast Day in 1863.

“[I]t is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord,” his proclamation read.

“[I]nsomuch we know that by His Divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people,” Lincoln said.

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  • Reason2012

    “As the elected legislative body of the Chino Valley Unified School District, the board of education recognizes that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees each person’s individual right to free exercise of religion or non-religion, and prevents the government and other public officials from establishing a religion or non-religion,”

    Notice how they left out part of the First Amendment that specifies “no LAWS shall be passed” establishing a religion. It doesn’t say “we must censor prayer except where those who hate it give their permission”.

    No law has been passed forcing them to pray. So that’s the first lie.

    Second, their attempt to make it against any rule or law to pray is a VIOLATION of the First Amendment, as we have free exercise of religion – not “only free where those who hate it give you permission”.

    • meamsane

      When driven by such hostility towards Christianity, nothing else can be expected except Irrational and unreasonable denial of facts in the face of such logic.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    USA has no meaning if it has no Christianity. Godless America only has money and power and pleasure but man is worthless with only those. America ignores God and also the pioneering makers of the nation. Cain neither worships God or respect his parents or remembers history. Seth inherits everything.

    • johndoe

      We’re not a theocracy..not now..not ever. Look what its done to the middle east

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Yes, America is a theocracy; their national documents and anthems and pledges and money bills all say that Americans submit to God alone. Most Europeans are that way, too; the cross on their flags and Christian anthems and the royal documents are the proof. The Middle East’s problem is lack of the Holy Bible. If there is no Bible, people do not conceive the ideas of human rights or equality or freedom. Today, secular West is a slave to abnormal sexual immorality; their self-smartness is a woe. The West needs Christianity to get saved.

        • johndoe

          Wrong. No theocracy in America . You need to read up on America. Ignorance isnt an excuse

          • Oboehner

            Religion is part of everyone’s life (whether they choose to admit it or not) all this does is force dominance of someone’s on another.

        • Rookheight

          Sorry, you have no idea what you are talking about. Go back to square one and study some history from a neutral source, rather than whatever Christian fantasy you used in the past.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Something true of wealthy former Christendom:
    “For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. …But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; you grew fat, you grew thick, you are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, and scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods…that your fathers did not fear. …The Lord will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” ( quoted from Deuteronomy ch.32)

  • Croquet_Player

    Congratulations to the attorneys for the Chino Valley Unified School District. They prevented their clients from facing a costly, losing legal battle, and saved taxpayer money.

    • Rich Shack

      Congratulations for caving in.

    • johndoe


    • Rookheight

      Unfortunately, this was after they had already lost. But at least they stopped the bleeding.

  • Sharon Windus

    Disgusting that they are misinterpreting the Constitution to their own whims. We have freedom OF Religion. If I wish to pray in public, no one can tell me I can’t just because they choose not to believe. If the board chairman chooses to open the meeting with a prayer, they do not have to participate, but should be adult enough and American enough to just sit quietly. I agree with Reason2012 that they are in violation of the Constitution by passing this “law”.

    • Rookheight

      You are missing the other half of the religion clauses of the First Amendment. You are a private citizen and can indeed pray in public without interference from the government. Just as government actors (e.g. school board members) can’t stop you from praying, they also can’t endorse particular religious beliefs while acting in their official capacity. That’s why they lost badly in court on this issue.

      • Oboehner

        They can’t establish a religion, the Constitution says nothing about “endorsement”.

  • DoctorDJ

    Silly little Christians trying to hang on to their privileges.

    Your time has gone. Get used to it.