Chino Valley, Calif., district moves school event from church per FFRF’s advice

A Chino Valley Unified public school will no longer hold an event inside a local church following an intervention by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned parent reported to FFRF that each year Chino Hills High School holds its Senior Awards Night at Inland Hills Church. The district had apparently contracted with Inland Hills Church for this purpose and was paying to use this space.

The use of churches for public school programming is inappropriate and unconstitutional, FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line pointed out to the district. A school’s use of a church for school functions is problematic because it sends a message of approval of the church to impressionable students.

“This practice forces parents and children, who may be of varying faiths or none at all, to enter a Christian house of worship in order to attend their senior awards night,” Line writes to the district’s attorney. “This excludes the 30 percent of Americans, including about 47 percent of millennials, who are not Christian.”

FFRF asked the district to protect the rights of conscience of all district families and no longer host school events at churches and instead select public facilities for all future events. The district’s attorney sent a response to FFRF with assurances that the event has been moved.

“Be advised that Chino Hills High School will not hold its 2019-2020 senior awards night at the Inland Hills Church,” Margaret A. Chidester, the district’s attorney, writes.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation successfully stopped routine prayers and proselytization at school board meetings in Chino Valley Unified School District earlier this year, after initially suing in 2014. FFRF, with 22 local parents, students and employees of the Chino Valley School District, triumphed in July before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (the largest in the country) against these prayers. These meetings, which resembled church revivals more than public gatherings, opened with prayer and regularly included board members reading from the bible and proselytizing.

“We applaud the district for promptly correcting this violation,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students and their families shouldn’t be pressured to attend what is supposed to be a celebratory event inside a church.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 4,000 members in California and a chapter in Sacramento. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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