FULL STORY

Citizens of the Chino Valley

Unite for Religious Freedom

Every day throughout our nation public meetings are opened up in prayer by members of Congress, in our state legislature, city council meetings and school board meetings. It’s Constitutional and it has been a practice in America since the conception of our nation. At the Constitutional Convention on July 28, 1787, Benjamin Franklin, reminded the patriots of the necessity for prayer.

“In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.

“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

“And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” - Benjamin Franklin

Dr. Franklin’s speech to the convention that day reminded the patriots to seek God’s Providence and went on to make a motion that public meetings begin with prayer.

“I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.”

And so it has been for over 200 years. However, many have tried to chisel away at our religious liberties, bringing varying lawsuits against local governments, municipalities and school districts throughout our nation in an effort to remove God from peoples’ consciousness. In 2008, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the Town of Greece, New York demanding that the town censor prayers that were distinctly Christian prayers. In 2015, the United States Supreme Court found that the town's practice of opening its town board meetings with a prayer was Constitutional, that the Town of Greece did not discriminate against minority faiths, and that the prayer at public meetings did not coerce participation.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government…” - Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in his opinion “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government alter or define and that willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgment of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs. The prayer in this case has a permissible ceremonial purpose. It is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.”

Relying on the Supreme Court’s Town of Greece v Galloway decision that citizens are free to proclaim prayers at public meetings, the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) defended a lawsuit brought in 2014 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on behalf of some citizens who did not want prayer at school board meetings. However, in February 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Jesus Bernal ruled, among other things, that the invocations given at our local school board meetings were unlawful. Along with that ruling, Freedom from Religion Foundation was awarded exhorbitant attorney’s fees.

On March 7, 2016 the CVUSD Board voted to appeal the District Court’s decision and to seek the assistance of an appellate law firm. The School District is now represented by the Riverside County law firm of Tyler & Bursch, LLP, with the support of Advocates for Faith & Freedom. These attorneys have done extensive work across the country at no charge to defend the Constitution.