A judge in California has barred a public school district from allowing prayers at its board meetings and ordered it to cover the court costs and plaintiff fees.
U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal issued the decision on Feb. 18 against the Chino Valley Unified School District.
In November 2014, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed the lawsuit against the school board's prayers.
In his decision, Bernal said, "The court finds ... permitting religious prayer in board meetings, and the policy and custom of reciting prayers, Bible readings, and proselytizing at board meetings, constitute unconstitutional government endorsements of religion in violation of plaintiffs' First Amendment rights."
The FFRF is known for its vehement opposition to public displays of Christianity such as a Ten Commandments monument, prayers by a football coach at games and cross decals on police patrol cars, according to the Christian News Network.
The FFRF accused the Chino school board of violating the First Amendment.
"The Chino Valley School Board begins each meeting with a prayer. Indeed the meetings resemble a church service more than a school board meeting, complete with Bible readings by the board members, Bible quotations by board members, and other statements by board members promoting the Christian religion," FFRF's lawsuit reads.
It said the school board prayers violated the U.S. and California Constitution, telling the board of education that the prayers are "unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive."
Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), which defended the prayers in court, said "some of the board members are very committed to their faith."
"In a free society we can't have freedom from religion but freedom of religion, and that's what this lawsuit's all about," Dacus told One News Now.
In the ruling, Bernal added, "[M]embers of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education ... are hereby enjoined from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school-sponsored prayer in board meetings."