The Freedom From Religion Foundation commends the Chino Valley school district in California for acknowledging a recent First Amendment violation by a board member — and working to correct it.
Two concerned Chino Valley USD employees reported to FFRF that school board member James Na distributed Christmas cards with a religious message to employees, which were printed and delivered to teachers’ boxes using school resources. The card included a poem advancing Christianity: “May peace be before you at every meal /And faith ring through every song /For Christ is alive the light of the world /May he bless you all season long.”
“Our Constitution’s Establishment Clause — which protects Americans’ religious freedom by ensuring the continued separation of religion and government — dictates that the government cannot in any way show favoritism toward religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote in a letter to the school district’s legal counsel. “As the Supreme Court has put it, ‘The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’”
As the cards were produced and distributed using school funds, and created by a school board member, FFRF was concerned that the Chino Valley USD was actively promoting Christianity.
The district’s legal counsel has responded to FFRF’s concern in a sincerely remedying way.
According to a letter from the legal counsel, the district conducted a direct investigation, and concluded that the card, containing phrases such as “Christmas Blessing” and “For Christ alive,” should not have been distributed using district resources.” Additionally, FFRF was assured that the district has taken steps to prevent future such incidents.
Notably, this is not the first time that FFRF has had to contact Chino Valley USD due to the actions of Board Member Na. FFRF sued Chino Valley in 2014 over opening school board meetings with prayer and bible readings, including by Na, who used meetings to spread his personal religion, including urging those in attendance who “did not know Jesus Christ to go and find him.” At the conclusion of the case in December 2018, FFRF emerged victorious, with Na’s promotion of Christianity deemed unconstitutional. Ultimately, the school board was ordered to pay $275,000 as a result of the lawsuit.
“Mr. Na is free to distribute and mail devotional Christmas cards as a private citizen, but not to use public school resources to create or distribute them,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Putting a stop to future proselytization is a great step for Chino Valley USD.”