Back in February, I posted an update on what’s happening with the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education (in California). This is the district in which board meetings were indistinguishable from a church service, with members frequently leading explicitly Christian prayers and reading Bible verses.
A judge ruled in April that these prayers were unconstitutional and ordered the School Board to put an immediate stop to them. The decision cost those board members $202,971.70.
The board members filed an appeal, which is still being hashed out in the courts. In the meantime, however, those members have finally done something sensible: They changed their own rules to prevent prayers during meetings. Beau Yarbrough of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports:
Chino Valley Unified School District board members voted unanimously Thursday in favor of new rules to curtail their ability to pray and quote the Bible from the dais.
The policy makes explicit when board members can and cannot express their faith during meetings.
“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,” the policy reads. However, “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.”
“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 said.
The new policy is practically an admission that they crossed the line in the past. It’s also what the Freedom From Religion Foundation said they ought to be doing.
So why make the change now? Maybe the thinking is that this new policy, which falls in line with the law, will please FFRF. And then, perhaps, their massive fines can be drastically reduced.
Whatever the reason, it’s a smart move. It’s only upsetting that it wasn’t in place until an atheist group called board members out for violating the law.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)