A federal appeals court decided Wednesday that Chino Valley school board meetings may not include prayers, proselytizing or the citing of Christian Scripture.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2016 injunction against the religious practices, which the court said dated back to at least 2010.
In its appeal, the Chino Valley Unified School District board argued that it was covered by an exception for traditional prayer at the start of state legislatures, Congress and town hall meetings.
The 9th Circuit disagreed, noting that the school board meetings include children and teenagers who are more vulnerable than adults to outside influence and who have been obligated to attend to give presentations, perform or receive awards.
“These prayers typically take place before groups of schoolchildren whose attendance is not truly voluntary and whose relationship to school district officials, including the board, is not one of full parity,” the court said in an unsigned decision.
Unlike sessions of Congress, state legislatures and town boards, the Chino Valley school board meetings “function as extensions of the educational experience of the district’s public schools,” the 9th Circuit said.
Two other federal appeals courts have previously ruled that prayer was off-limits for school board meetings. Another circuit allowed it, but in that case there was no student on the board. Chino Valley’s board had a student member.
Full story at The LA Times.