Friday, November 14, 2014

Chino Valley School Board Criticized for Religious Proselytization During Board Meetings

Chino Valley Unified School District
The Chino Valley School Board has been identified by Americans United as unconstitutionally promoting religion - primarily conservative Protestant Chistianity - at its Board meetings for the past few years.  The Board regularly opens their public meetings with a Christian prayer.  The Board has also been noted for regularly including bible readings and proselytizing by board members during Board discussions.

Students often attend the meetings to receive awards, speak about issues affecting their schools, attend disciplinary hearings and do performances. Student attendance is mandatory in some instances, and a student representative serves as a non-voting member of the Board.

James Na, now Board President, has been singled out as a prime violator of religious neutrality, regularly including Christian and Biblical references into many of his official statements. At one recent Board meeting, Na "urged everyone who does not know Jesus Christ to go and find Him," and closed the meeting with a reading of Psalm 143.

The Chino Valley School Board has been criticized in the past for attempting to introduce Bible Study classes which critics labelled as unbalanced and proselytizing. In 2010, a Bible Study class prepared and submitted by the Calvary Chapel Chino Hills was introduced at the district's four high schools as a "Bible as Literature" class. At the time of its introduction, School Board Vice President James Na added, "[The Bible] will bring greatness in students' lives. I would like to thank God and Christian parents who are going to support this class." No similar classes focusing on other religious texts or faiths were considered. The Board, most of whom are members of the Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, also saw fit at the same time to approve a resolution denouncing same-sex marriage.

Courts have consistently held that organized prayer in the public schools is unconstitutional; and two federal appellate courts, the Third and Sixth Circuits, have specifically held that school board prayer to be unconstitutional.

Americans United has sent a letter of concern to the CVUSD Board asking that these constitutionally questionable practices be stopped and the Board meetings be held without the injection of prayers, bible readings, or proselytizing by city officials or their representatives. The Board has been regularly contacted over the past two years to address these constitutional concerns.  Their only response, agreed to at their 7 October 2013 meeting, was to deny and ignore the requests for resolution.  No further action or change to their practices has occurred since then.

AU members who live in the district and who might have more information on the situation are urged to contact and advise the Greater Los Angeles chapter on additional developments.

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