Deer Valley school board member plans more Bible quotes
Christian nationalist board member Kim Fisher has posted on social media that she plans on quoting the Bible at the 10/10 Governing Board meeting. This comes on the heels of a Peoria Unified School District board member suing that district over allegedly being told to refrain from doing so. Our attorneys believe we will see a flood of such prayers in coming weeks, as Christian nationalists are likely seeking a Supreme Court ruling to overturn constitutional law banning prayer at school events.
Constituents are urged to attend the 10/10 school board meeting 6PM at 20402 N. 15th Avenue, Phoenix. Wear clothing identifying your support for separation of church and state (or related cause) and speak against unconstitutional religious proselytizing.
Peoria school board candidate ignores district rules for candidacy
Maricopa County Education Service Agency has completed most of the initial interviews for the candidates to fill the seat of former Peoria Unified School District board member Rebecca Hill. Former Mark Brnovich campaign manager Brandon Urness (currently working as the Peoria Mayor’s chief of staff) is attempting to exploit a technicality in state law allowing him to submit after the deadline and skip large parts of the application process.
The rest of the candidates under consideration followed rules set by the school district, which required candidates send a packet by August 28th containing a resume and/or letter of interest; proof of one-year residency; proof of voter registration; and notarized affidavit attesting to qualifications for office.
Boardmember Werner presented her "bathroom policy" for a first read. The policy enables any student to request accessto use a single stall restroom. Besides the nurse's office, these facilities exist only in areas limited to adult access or open to the public. When pressed by Boardmember Hart-Wells on why this policy is needed, Boardmember Werner said, because it is, and claimed that SUSD General Counsel, Mr. Buzan, agrees with her. In an awkward rebuttal, Mr. Buzan said he did not say that. Boardmember Hart-Wells also corrected Boardmember Werner's claim that providing access to single stall restrooms would have no additional cost. Building Services Director Dennis Roehler explained there would be an expense to retrofit the doors with a "vacant/occupied" lock, which is standard for existing restrooms that the public has access to and encouraged for these restrooms that students and adults would be sharing.Boardmember Cieniawski's statement boiled down to "this is a solution in search of a problem" and Boardmember Carney gave her support for the policy. Given the infeasibility of this plan and Boardmembers Carney and Werner's tendency to embrace culture war issues, their motivation for pushing this plan is questionable. The board will vote on this at a future meeting.
Public Comment continues to include vile and misleading statements from a handful of repeat speakers, cheered on by a dozen regular attendees that share their fringe beliefs.
Know your rights: religious freedom in public schools
Public schools are required to be secular institutions. Because public schools are funded by taxpayers and because children are more impressionable than adults, these schools have a special obligation not to infringe on the religious rights of their students, parents, and teachers. But what are those rights? Can coaches pray at games or not? Can teachers talk about religion in class? Can students have bible club on campus?
October 11, 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM : Join our friends at one•n•ten, for a remarkable National Coming OUT Day celebration, featuring Sandor Lubisch, a retired high school English teacher and LGBTQ+ advocate. Sandor's inspiring journey and commitment to fostering inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ youth have left a lasting impact on central Phoenix's dropout prevention schools. Moreover, he actively contributes to the LGBTQ+ community as a City of Phoenix Police Department LGBTQ+ Community Advisory Board representative and committee member for various local non-profit organizations.
Don't miss this chance to connect, learn, and celebrate diversity at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Have you thought about running for school board?These trainings are for you. We'll review what it means to run, the role of a school board member, and best practices for starting your journey. There’s no pressure — just a safe space to ask questions and seek information.
Volunteers needed to collect signatures for abortion amendment
Arizona for Abortion Access has launched the petition gathering effort to put abortion on the ballot in 2024. The “Arizona Abortion Access Act” would enshrine the fundamental right to abortion in Arizona’s constitution for generations to come. The amendment is critical to ensure abortion access in the state.
In the last edition of this newsletter, we incorrectly mentioned that PUSD Board member Heather Rooks quoted scripture at the last Governing Board meeting. While Member Rooks is currently pursuing an agenda promoting prayer at public meetings, she did not quote the Bible at that particular meeting.
National Legal Updates
Our legal team is watching Freedom of Religion cases from all around the US! Here’s what’s been going on:
A federal judge in West Virginiaruled in favor of an incarcerated atheist who was required to complete a religious substance abuse treatment program in order to be eligible for parole. The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation is enjoined from compelling Andrew Miller’s participation in religious programming while the case goes forward. The judge found that this requirement likely violated Mr. Miller’s rights under the establishment clause and the free exercise clause.
In North Carolina, a home repair company settled a lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of two employees who were fired for refusing to attend required “cult-like” prayer meetings. Aurora Pro Services will have to pay $50,000 to settle the religious harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claim.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that a Jewish couple has standing to challenge a Tennessee law that allows private child-placing agencies that receive state funding to deny services based on religious beliefs. The couple had been denied the chance to adopt a child solely because of their religion.
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that a man had standing to sue the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix for sexual abuse he experienced as a child. The trial court originally dismissed the complaint for not alleging sufficient facts demonstrating that the Church had actual knowledge or should have known that the complainant was being abused by his priest. The suit against the Church for their negligence in supervising and retaining the priest can now go forward.
Things to Watch:
The Archdiocese of Denver has sued Colorado over a new universal preschool funding law. The Archdiocese claims that the law violates the rights of the Catholic Church because preschools that discriminate against LGBTQ parents, staff, and children cannot receive the funding. They will be relying on the Carson v. Makin case saying if you give vouchers to schools, you have to give to religious schools.
Updates courtesy of Secular AZ Legal Fellow Adriana Clark.