Court: California school board’s prayers unconstitutional

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Southern California school board’s policy of opening meetings with a prayer is unconstitutional because the prayers often invoke Christianity, and there are secular ways of accomplishing the board’s goals of solemnizing meetings and showing respect for religious diversity, a U.S. appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that banned the prayers by the Chino Valley Unified School District board of education as a violation of the constitutional requirement that government not establish religion. The district is based in Chino, a city 35 miles east of Los Angeles.

Robert Tyler, an attorney for the school board, said the board was evaluating its next step, but had previously expressed a desire to “take this case as far as they can take it.” He said the 9th Circuit ruling conflicted with a decision last year by another U.S. appeals court and conflated comments made by individual board members during meetings with the prayer policy.

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