Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education (Andrew Cruz, Thursday, December 11, 2014)
By Grace Wong, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 12/28/14, 2:24 PM PST |
CHINO >> The Chino Valley Unified School Board is under fire for prayers, Bible readings and alleged Christian proselytizing during board meetings. For some, this comes as a surprise, but a look at the board’s past shows that religiously tinged conflicts over policy are nothing new.
They have culminated in a lawsuit, filed Nov. 13 and amended Dec. 15, which alleges that the board members violated the Constitution by praying, reading Bible verses and proselytizing at their meetings.
The lawsuit — which has yet to get a reply from the board — has touched off reactions on both sides of the issue of religion in the public square — in this case a school board meeting.
More than 20 supporters spoke out at the board’s Nov. 20 board meeting, saying that they appreciated the board and their actions. Many others spoke at its Dec. 11 meeting, telling them that the only person they had to answer to was God.
But for others, the lawsuit is a long time coming, and each incident in the past, they say, is just further proof that the board has consistently overstepped its bounds.
“They have been warned over and over again for years and years about the dangers of overstepping the boundaries, the separation of church and state, and they have continued to do so, and it was only a matter of time before enough people came forward and an organization was able to file the lawsuit,” said Lisa Greathouse, a resident of Chino Hills whose children attended school in the district.
For years, the board has established a record for supporting policies, and law, in which religion played a role in some way, even if subtle.
In 2008, the board expressed support for Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would have amended the state’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Supporters of the board’s resolution said that it would prevent children from being taught that homosexuality is normal. Opponents said the resolution promoted intolerance. The resolution passed, 4-0, with one member absent, and California voters passed the proposition, too. But the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately dismissed an appeal to let Prop. 8 stand, which allowed gay people to marry in California.
Two years after its Prop. 8 resolution, the board approved the teaching of a Bible class called “The Bible as in History and Literature,” in its high schools. The class was created as an elective for seniors and was later extended to juniors. Supporters from Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, a local church with high local attendance numbers, pledged to pay for all the textbooks for the course. Opponents said this was inviting lawsuits and that it was fiscally irresponsible, citing a $30 million deficit challenge the board had that year.
And only last year, the Chino Valley Unified school board voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution that opposed Assembly Bill 1266, which requires public schools to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on the gender they identified with. The bill went into effect Jan. 1 of this year. Calvary Chapel Chino Hills pastor Jack Hibbs took to the internet to rally support to repeal the bill.
Hibbs could not be reached for comment.
For supporters, the history of the board is a testament to what they say is their firm faith and commitment to the Constitution, which they argue was written by Christians.
“They’re not violating the Constitution, they’re fulfilling it,” said Joe McTarsney, staff minister at Calvary Chapel Chino Valley referring to the board. “In no way did Jefferson or the framers of the Constitution seek to restrict religious activities in politics or in our schools. Faith and politics can mix together.”
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