On July 25, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Directors (in California) was indeed violating the Establishment Clause by promoting Christianity at meetings.
They read Bible verses, said explicitly Christian prayers at the exclusion of all other beliefs, railed against marriage equality (presumably in the name of Jesus), etc. It was absolutely illegal, and the judges knew it.
If you’re looking for details of that case, you can read them here. But there’s one important aspect of it that won’t get a lot of attention: Money.
When the Board lost the initial case in 2016, U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal said they had to pay the Freedom From Religion Foundation a whopping $202,971.70 for attorneys’ fees and other costs. That’s a ton of money for a District that could’ve hired four teachers instead.
But because this Board already lacked a sensible majority, they went ahead and hired a law firm, Tyler & Bursch, to keep fighting this lawsuit.
Well, they just lost again and we don’t yet know how much that will hurt the District’s pocketbook.
And because the same idiotic majority is still on the Board, they just voted 3-2 to appeal their case to the Supreme Court. James Na, Andrew Cruz, and Sylvia Orozco chose to keep fighting this ridiculous battle.
This week, Mr. Cruz said “The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, does not reflect the multitudes of Californian family values and laws. Eighty percent of the Ninth Circuit Court appeals has been overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court, which begins its sessions with a prayer ‘God save the United States and this honorable court,’ understands that prayer is a part of our country’s history and government establishments.”
There’s a difference between a nominal shout-out to God at Supreme Court sessions and the kind of Bible readings that took place at school board meetings with a captive audience of children.
While the legal services offered by Tyler & Bursch are free, an appeal to the Supreme Court means that FFRF will also have to file a brief urging the Supreme Court not to take up this case. (It’s an easy argument, since there’s really no controversy in the lower courts about this matter.) Still, the brief takes time to write. That means attorneys will have to get paid.
And that means even if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, which is the most likely outcome here, the Chino Valley Unified School District will be on the hook for even more money.
At what point do the people in this community realize they’re getting screwed over by three members of the local school board? The money that should be spent on their children’s education is instead being wasted on a losing legal battle to defend Christian indoctrination.
One Christian group has held a fundraiser for the Board… but it hasn’t even covered half of the costs so far:
The Let Us Pray Foundation, associated with Calvary Chapel Chino Hills has raised more than $100,000, to help defray any legal costs the district may incur in the case, according to Gina Gleason, the church’s director of faith and public policy. Ms. Gleason said Let Us Pray Foundation will continue to hold fundraisers for the effort. No funds have yet been distributed to the district because the case is still in the appeal process, board member Mrs. Orozco said.
This is completely irresponsible. Christian advocacy groups may say they work for free, but they rarely explain how, if they lose the case, it’s the taxpayers who will have to foot the other side’s legal bills. And these advocacy groups often take on cases that are legal long-shots because they get free publicity no matter the outcome.
I don’t know why people in this community continue to put up with this. The children deserve so much better.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier.)