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School District Appeals Federal Injunction on School Board Prayer

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(Advocates for Faith & Freedom Press Release: March 17, 2016) Chino, CA. Late yesterday, Chino Valley Unified School District filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal from an Order of the United States District Court (Central District) that prohibits the school district and its school board members from continuing to allow a ceremonial prayer at the beginning of its school board meetings.

The school board decided to appeal that portion of the federal court’s order that enjoins the school board’s policy because, as the federal court ruled, the policy of allowing a prayers at the school board meetings “constitute unconstitutional government endorsements of religion in violation of Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights.”

“The District’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit will focus on the issue of whether a school district can continue with the long tradition of allowing a ceremonial prayer at the beginning of school board meetings,” said Robert Tyler, Managing Partner of Tyler & Bursch, LLP and attorney for Chino Valley Unified School District. He further stated, “The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that prayers in Congress date back to the first Continental Congress. The High Court has concluded that the well-established tradition of permitting prayer at [the] beginning of city council meetings, Congress and state legislative sessions does not violate the Establishment Clause. Likewise, the courts should follow the Supreme Court precedent and allow the same to occur at the beginning of school board meetings.”

The school district recently retained the law firm Tyler & Bursch, LLP to represent the school district on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Tyler & Bursch’s services are being provided without charge to the school district. Advocates for Faith & Freedom is working in association with Tyler & Bursch, LLP to help underwrite the costs of the appeal.

Tyler & Bursch, LLP is a “for profit” law firm that dedicates a portion of its legal work to pro bono representation. Its website is www.tylerbursch.com.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of the U.S. Constitution in the courts. You can visit its website at www.faith-freedom.com.

House Passes Bill to Prevent Arrest of Priests for Holding Services at Military Bases During Shutdown

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The House passed a bill on Saturday to let military chaplains hold services during the shutdown, as Catholic priests under government contract were not allowed to offer communion and other religious services on military bases. Priests could even get arrested for volunteering.

The House voted 400-1 to reinstate furloughed chaplains on a volunteer basis on Saturday afternoon. The one House member who was against the resolution is Rep. William Enyart, a Democrat from Illinois, according to NPR.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia and a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain.

House Republicans were outraged by the fact that chaplains could be barred from offering services due to the shutdown. “Is it really the policy of this administration to make church services illegal? To threaten Catholic priests with jail?” asked Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Kansas, during a debate on the measure.

“The constitutional rights of those who put their lives on the line for this nation do not end with a government slowdown,” Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday. “It is completely irresponsible for the president to turn his back on every American’s First Amendment rights by furloughing military contract clergy.”

Pompeo added that President Barack Obama’s strategy during the slowdown, just as during the sequestration, “is to create as much pain as possible.” “However, this action crosses a constitutional line of obstructing every U.S. service member’s ability to practice his or her religion.”

Due to the shortage of active-duty Catholic military chaplains, the government hired GS (government services) and contract priests who are not permitted to work or volunteer in a shutdown. They can technically be arrested if they volunteer, John Schlageter, general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, told The Christian Post earlier.

The ban is only for the GS and contract priests who do not currently have a contract, while those who already have a contract for the new fiscal year can still minister on bases, Schlageter explained.

“While roughly 25% of the military is Catholic, Catholic priests make up only about 8% of the chaplain corps,” Schlageter said in a statement. “That means approximately 275,000 men and women in uniform, and their families, are served by only 234 active-duty priests.”

Some Protestant services could also be impacted, Ron Crews, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told The Christian Post. For, some Protestant military services use contract employees for certain positions, such as organists and nursery workers, he explained.

Meanwhile, the House also passed on Saturday a bill for the more than 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed due to the shutdown to receive back pay once they return to work.

The Senate is expected to approve both the measures.

By Anugrah Kumar Source

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