First Liberty Institute has sued Peoria Unified School District on behalf of Heather Rooks, who was elected to the school board in 2022 and was stopped from reciting Scripture during “board comments” periods, during which members were allowed to give whatever remarks they chose.
According to a statement released by First Liberty, the district received letters by activists that threatened legal action if Rooks continued. This resulted in the board’s legal counsel, Lisa Anne Smith, telling board members that they “couldn’t pray or recite scripture during board meetings,” according to the lawsuit.
First Liberty then sued on Rooks’ behalf, saying that the board and Smith had claimed that reciting Scripture was a First Amendment violation.
“The district’s official policy and actions — which purport to ensure Rooks does ‘not read Scripture’ or ‘offer Bible verses’ — regulate her speech based on its content, message, and viewpoint. The district’s policies and actions therefore chill her ability to freely speak, in violation of the First Amendment,” the lawsuit reads.
First Liberty argued that compelling Rooks to stop reciting Scripture violated her rights under the Constitution, citing numerous examples of government officials who quoted Scripture during official duties, from “Presidents [George] Washington and [Abraham] Lincoln up through President [Joe] Biden.”
The suit demands that the court acknowledge Rooks’ right to quote Bible verses and to state that any punishment for quoting Scripture would violate both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions.
“Heather takes her responsibilities serving the parents and students in her community seriously, and quotes Bible verses as a source of courage and strength in performing those duties.
“Like so many dedicated public leaders throughout our history, Heather most certainly can use inspirational quotes from religious, historical, and philosophical sources and figures as a source of personal inspiration, as well as encouragement to the community at large,” Andy Gould, senior counsel at First Liberty said in a statement.
Jeremy Frankel ✉
Jeremy Frankel is a Newsmax writer reporting on news and politics.
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