In support of their case against the San Diego Unified School District’s “Islamophobia” initiative, FCDF asked the federal judge today for permission to file a Notice of Supplemental Authority to bring to the court’s attention a recent Ninth Circuit’s ruling in a school-based First Amendment case. In federal court, litigants can ask to file a letter highlighting a recent court ruling that dealt with legal issues that did not exist when the last filing was made. In this case, FCDF called to attention the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Freedom From Religion Found., Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ.
Update: The Court issued an order accepting the Notice on August 2, 2018.
In Chino Valley, the Ninth Circuit upheld a federal district court’s order banning the local school board from allowing various religious leaders to pray before each school board meeting. Only religious officials were allowed to give invocations. The school board said that their restrictive policy wasn’t endorsing religion but was highlighting the religious diversity in the school district. The Court rejected that argument, noting that the school board only allowed representatives from certain religions to pray. By doing so, the Court observed, the school board was excluding other religions as well as atheists and agnostics. The Court also expressed concern about students being exposed to the religious prayers, which could give the impression that the school district was endorsing those particular religions.
School prayer cases are controversial, and the lawsuits are often brought by militant anti-Christians (like the Freedom from Religion Foundation). The Supreme Court has rightfully ruled that invocations at town hall meetings are constitutional because the prayers are solemnizing and are rooted in historical values. But the Ninth Circuit recognized that school board meetings are a different matter because children are more impressionable and influenced by adults.
In FCDF’s case, the San Diego school board has empowered CAIR with unfettered access to promote their Islamic agenda while excluding other religious groups. It would be inconceivable that a liberal school board would allow a Christian advocacy group into classrooms to teach about Christian culture. This double standard is a big reason the San Diego school district’s “anti-Islamophobia” initiative is unconstitutional.
The Chino Valley school board also complained that preventing religious leaders from praying would violate their First Amendment rights. San Diego’s school board is similarly arguing that keeping CAIR out of the schools would violate CAIR’s First Amendment rights to advance their religious agenda in the classrooms. Both are wrong. The Ninth Circuit said the religious neutrality and preventing indoctrination of students is far more critical than allowing religious activity in the public schools. In FCDF’s case, CAIR has no business indoctrinating San Diego’s schoolchildren. To compare a child’s right to learn in a religiously neutral environment with a designated terrorist organization’s constitutional rights is borderline absurd.
The bottom line: If a public school district is going to allow religious activity in schools, all religious groups should have equal access. The school board can’t pick and choose which religions are allowed to be promoted. In San Diego, Islam is the only promoted religion. That is an affront to the First Amendment rights of every child in the school district.