Oh, Ye Of Little Faith!

For the most High hateth sinners, and will repay vengeance unto the ungodly, and keepeth them against the mighty day of their punishment.  –Ecclesiastes 12:6


For James Na, who has twice been president of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, it is very simple. The vast majority of the Chino Valley community put their faith in and are obeying the wrong Jesus, and the wages of their sin are now being visited upon them, to the tune of, depending how you look at it, either $75,680 or $278,651.70.
For a very brief time, Na and others who believe that God is the Almighty and Jesus his only begotten son the savior of the sinful inhabitants of earth were able to have the people of Chino Valley march in the direction he in his heart knows is at keeping with the will of God. But that Holy Crusade did not last long enough to achieve its ends, and it is James Na’s fervent belief that for the last five months those in the Chino Valley have returned to their sinful ways and are not obeying Jesus Christ but rather Federal Judge Jesus Bernal, whom Na and his fellow believers know to be either a witting or unwitting disciple of Lucifer.
For more than a decade the board of education with the Chino Valley Unified School District has tested the boundary of permissible religious advocacy at its public functions. In 2008, Na, a Chinese immigrant who considers the United States to be the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy by which the values of the Kingdom of God have become manifest upon earth, was elected to the school board in 2008. Among Na’s colleagues on the board was Sylvia Orozco, who had been elected two years previously. Orozco, a committed Christian herself, did not blanch when Na showed no hesitancy in witnessing his Christian faith to one and all, both in person and in private as well as publicly and while on the dais during board meetings, evincing disappointment and indignation toward anyone who might suggest that it was improper for him to be using a public forum to engage in a religious dialogue. The proselytizing stepped up a notch with the 2012 election of Andrew Cruz to the school board.
From the school board dais Na and Cruz would frequently urge those in attendance to calibrate their own code of behavior with the instruction laid out by the Word of the Lord in the Good Book, and they would commonly take recourse in Biblical passages. At one point during a meeting in January 2014, Na said everyone should “surrender themselves to God’s will. Everyone who does not know Jesus, go find Him.”
Not to be outdone, Cruz on more than one occasion reminded those in attendance at the board’s meetings that “Jesus Christ is the truth and the way and the light.” On other occasions he was more expansive, as when he once stated, “Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture, and he was buried and he was raised on the third day, according to the Scripture. Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched
land. Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.”
Orozco, Na and Cruz are members of the Chino Hills Calvary Chapel, a church led by the Reverend Jack Hibbs. Hibbs evinces a denominationalist attitude, which holds that Christians have a duty to take over public office and promote their religious beliefs.
Hibbs made an object demonstration of the impact his brand of evangelism can effectuate when in 2010, through an extension of his church known as the Watchman Industry and with Na’s and Orozco’s assistance, he successfully lobbied the school board to include Bible study classes as part of the district’s high school curriculum.
On November 13, 2014, the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin filed suit in Federal Court in Riverside against the district on behalf of two named plaintiffs, Larry Maldonado and Mike Anderson, and 21 unnamed plaintiffs who asserted they were alienated or intimidated at school board meetings because of the insistence of some district officials to engage in so-called Christian witnessing, including “prayers, Bible readings and proselytizing.”
The plaintiffs asked for an injunction against the intrusion of religiosity into the conducting of district business.
Although all board members and the district collectively were identified as defendants, the suit cited Na and Cruz for their routine practice of
quoting Biblical passages and making other religious references.
Orozco, Na and Cruz were able to convince the remainder of the board that the district would not sustain any costs or liability as a consequence of defending against the suit, and in January 2015 the board voted 3-2 against hiring the law firm which normally represents it in court. Instead, the district engaged the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute for $1 to defend the district in the civil lawsuit.
The Pacific Justice Institute, founded and led by Brad Dacus, touts itself as a public interest law firm that “handles cases addressing religious freedom, including church and private school rights issues, curtailments to evangelism by the government, harassment because of religious faith, employers attacked for their religious-based policies [and] students and teachers’ rights to share their faith at public schools.”
The case went before Federal Judge Jesus Bernal, who on February 18, 2016 issued his own encyclical in which he rejected the Pacific Justice Institute’s arguments that the district’s policy of celebrating the beliefs of a majority of the board did not violate the plaintiffs’ rights to attend district board meetings and participate in other district and school functions without being subjected to an intensive round of religious advocacy. Bernal ordered the Chino Unified School District Board to discontinue its overt and constant references to Christianity during its public meetings and refrain forthwith from inserting religion into official proceedings.
“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,” Bernal wrote. “Defendant board members are enjoined from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school-sponsored prayer in board meetings.”
Bernal rejected as “meritless” the board’s claim that its actions are protected by the legislative prayer exception, and volunteer chaplains could be permitted to open each legislative session with a prayer and that the legislative prayer exception applies to prayer at school board meetings since “The risk that a student will feel coerced by the board’s policy and practice of religious prayer is even higher here than at football games or graduations. The school board possesses an inherently authoritarian position with respect to the students.”
Bernal awarded the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legal team $202,425.00 in attorney’s fees and $546.70 in costs to be paid by the district.
Despite that setback, Na, Cruz and Orozco, buttressed by Hibbs and the parishioners at Calvary Chapel, resolved to fight on. Hibbs, who was accompanied by several score of his flock, came before the school board, beseeching them to “stay strong,” while pledging the financial support of of the 10,000-member Calvary Chapel.  Hibbs inveighed against “those that would distract you from fighting for this right to prayer regarding invocations,” saying that the district’s leadership need not worry about the legal costs of doing so. “The community is going to rise and create a war chest to do whatever is necessary,” he promised. He subsequently came through with the creation of the “Let Us Pray Foundation,” which was essentially a defense fund the district could rely upon to pay for the costs of appealing the judgment all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, and if that ultimately failed, defray the cost of paying for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legal bills the district would be obliged to cover as the losing party.
Confident of Hibbs’ and Calvary Chapel’s promise of indemnification, buoyed in their Christian faith and in control of the district politically as a consequence of their constituting three-fifths of the school board, Na, Cruz and Orozco committed to showing the world that the values of the sinful secular world need not overwhelm the righteous by appealing Judge Bernal’s ruling. If prayer was to remain forbidden in public schools across America, it was not going to be because the faithful in the Chino Valley were not willing to stand up to the sinful and bend their knees before the Lord.
At once they were given a sign, as one donor came forward and provided $143,000 to the Let Us Pray Foundation.
The district dispensed with the representation of the Pacific Justice Institute, voting on March 7, 2016 with board members Irene Hernandez-Blair and Pamela Feix dissenting, to retain another Christian advocacy attorney, Robert Tyler of the Murrieta-based law firm Tyler & Bursch, to handle the appeal of Bernal’s ruling.
Tyler pursued the appeal by reasserting the school board’s right to proselytize during public forums, hinging his argument on the basis of the 2014 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, which held that public officials can open public meetings with prayers — even explicitly Christian ones — if the government agency does not discriminate against minority faiths when choosing who may offer a prayer and the prayer does not coerce participation from nonbelievers.
Tyler’s emergence as the district’s representative in the matter betrayed a rather obvious disconnection between the Christian prayer-in-school advocates’ position and the reality of the case. In availing himself of the Greece vs.  Galloway defense, Tyler neglected to fully inform his clients that a victory on the grounds he was seeking could carry with it the possibility that the public and students in the Chino Valley Unified School District could very well be subject to homilies of a non-Christian nature, such as entreaties to Allah to purge the world of infidels, passages from the Bhagavad-Gita or any of a host of paganistic rites, which ran absolutely counter to the blithe assumption that prayer meant Christian prayer. For Hibbs and his followers, however, this was of no great moment, since the Christian majority had spoken at the Chino Valley polls and Na, Cruz and Orozco, who would never stand for the recitation of any words inimical to the Will of God, were in control.
Despite Tyler’s contention that the district and its school board were merely seeking to preserve its invocation policy at board meetings, the three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals considering the appeal – consisting of Judges M. Margaret McKeown and Kim McLane Wardlaw and Colorado District Judge Wiley Y. Daniel – looked at the actuality of what had been occurring at school board meetings, and found unpersuasive Tyler’s characterization of Na and Cruz’s action as simply offering a tepid convocation at the opening of the meetings. Rather, the panel concluded, Tyler was seeking to minimize the extent to which Na and Cruz subjected those present at the board meetings to what was tantamount to Christian indoctrination. On July 25, 2018, the 9th Circuit panel upheld in its entirety Bernal’s 2016 ruling. The 9th Circuit said the Chino Valley School Board must desist in incorporating prayers, proselytizing and the citation of Christian Scripture as elements of its meetings. Noting the frequent presence of children at the meetings who are obliged to attend because of presentations or participation in the items being taken up by the board, the court found that the religious preaching at the board meetings diverged from the legislative-prayer tradition. “Unlike a session of Congress or a state legislature, or a meeting of a town board, the Chino Valley board meetings function as extensions of the educational experience of the district’s public schools,” the panel found.
Undeterred by the resounding defeat in Riverside Federal Court in 2016 and before the Ninth Circuit panel in San Francisco, the devoutly religious faction of the Chino Valley school board, which at that time consisted of Orozco, Na and Cruz, prevailed in a 3-to-2 vote on August 1, 2018 calling for the district to throw one last Hail Mary pass into the end zone by petitioning the United States Supreme Court to reconsider the case for allowing celebrations of Christian belief to remain as an intrinsic element of school district functions. Before proceeding with the petition to the Supreme Court, it was decided, again in a 3-to-2 vote, to ask the full Ninth Circuit Court for a rehearing of the case, giving it an opportunity, as the entirely of the circuit court acting collectively, to reverse the panel. Tyler’s gambit relied upon his knowledge that  the senior member of the 9th U.S. Circuit, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, along with judges N. Randy Smith, Sandra Segal Ikuta, Milan D. Smith, Jr., Consuelo María Callahan, Jay Bybee, Alex Kozinski and Carlos T. Bea held passively tolerant or actively encouraging attitudes toward public prayer and were in favor of finding a case in which the concept of allowable school prayer might be revisited and reestablished. There are a total of 29 positions on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, though at that time there were four seats vacant. Among those 25 active judges, a mere eight – O’Scannlain, Smith, Ikuta, Smith, Callahan, Bybee, Kozinski and Bea – were disposed to being sympathetic to the district’s position and were prepared to second guess the panel of McKeown, Wardlaw and Daniel. With those eight outnumbered by their 17 peers, the 9th Circuit in total voted down a review of the ruling.
Orozco represented the devout Christian faction’s best  hope for intensifying and expanding the Religious Right’s political grip on the Chino Valley. A member of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board since her election in 2006, Orozco in the November 2018 election forsook seeking reelection to the school board, instead vying for a position on the Chino City Council, what many considered to be a move up the political evolutionary chain. It was thought that her doing so could be safely done, as Pamela Feix, who had consistently voted against appealing the loss on the school prayer issue to a higher court, had also opted out of running for reelection to the school board. It was therefore thought likely that either Orozco or Feix or perhaps both would be replaced by a personage willing to see the battle on school prayer through to a final determination of the U.S. Supreme Court. In the contest at polls for primacy in the Chino Valley Unified School District, seen by many as a prelude to Armageddon, the forces of the Lord took a drubbing, as Orozco and Felix were replaced by Christina Gagnier and Joe Shaffer, neither of whom are attendees at Hibbs’ Clavary Chapel. Orozco’s council run was likewise unsuccessful.
With the district having already sustained substantial legal costs relating to the lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and recognizing the district would likely assume greater financial liability in defending the case further, the newly-composed council majority of Hernandez-Blair, Gagnier and Schaffer on January 17 in a closed session voted, over the opposition of Na and Cruz, to rescind the direction given to legal counsel on August 1, 2018 to file a writ petition to the United States Supreme Court for a review of the Ninth Circuit Court ruling. The January 17 vote called for ceasing any further litigation in the matter involving the Freedom From Religion lawsuit. That included any filing of or petitioning for cert with the U.S. Supreme Court.
In short order, the Let Us Pray Foundation’s account to bankroll the district’s legal effort with regard to school prayer was closed out without any of the money being  provided to the district.
Calvary Chapel attendees said the district was being cut off from the promised funds for two reasons. The first was that the district was not living up to its half of the implied bargain, which was to fight on behalf of the school prayer issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme  Court, win or lose. The second was that the money would go to the Freedom From Religion Foundation to pay for its court-awarded costs in having brought the lawsuit contesting the district’s ability to engage in school prayer in the first place, and it was inconceivable that the donors had put that money up for that purpose.
With the school district having recently paid out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation the $202, 971.70 Bernal awarded it in 2016 and another $75,680 to cover the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s costs in responding to the district’s now aborted appeal, parents of students in the district who never supported the district’s policy of celebrating religiosity, and in particular Christian religiosity, at every turn, are questioning why it is that Calvary Chapel, its parishioners and the Let Us Pray Foundation have skipped out on the previous commitment to bankroll the district in fighting the good fight on school prayer. Not keeping their word, these secularists point out, is not exactly the Christian thing to do.
Na and Cruz see no contradiction, no inconsistencies, no evasion of financial responsibility and no hypocrisy in the withdrawal of the Let Us Pray Foundation money, and they see nothing wrong with their prevailing votes in 2016 and in 2018 and their losing votes in 2019 to appeal Judge Bernal’s ruling. According to Na, God and Jesus Christ stood by the district in 2016 and in 2018 when the district stood with the Lord. God had swelled the coffers of the Let Us Pray Foundation with bounteous offerings of silver and gold that would have been made available to the district if it had merely stayed the course of righteousness. But with the election of November 2018, according to Na, the voters in the Chino Valley Unified School District had turned from God, and just as they have turned from Him, so now He has turned from them.
“If we had stayed vigilant in protecting the freedom of speech given to us by the Constitution and continued our appeals to the Supreme Court, we would have prevailed,” Na said with conviction. Instead, the district is now under the sway of the dark forces who stand against the blessings of prayer and its power to ward off evil. The district’s concern with mammon is the least of his concerns, he said, for what profiteth it a school district that is flush with money if the souls of its students are now in the clutches of Satan? Tyler and Bursch careth not about money, he said, and were working on the district’s behalf at virtually no cost. Had the district succeeded in the case, it would have stood in the annals of forevermore as a righteous defender of the Word of God. And had it fought the noble fight and lost, the Lord would have looked after it, all the same. “We had hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to cover all legal fees, and we would have been guaranteed even more,” Na said.
Cruz believes the district gave up the fight at the most crucial and inopportune time. He does not begrudge the Let Us Pray Foundation for withdrawing the money it had collected, as the donations were intended to bring the matter of prayer in schools squarely before the U.S. Supreme Court.
As Na and Cruz see it, the loss in court against the Freedom From Religion Foundation before Judge Bernal is not a blemish on the district at all but a badge of celestial honor, and concern that good taxpayer money was thrown after bad money in contesting the school prayer issue is of no consequence, as that is just money, a transitory commodity in a transitory world. Their focus is on the next world, which will arrive sooner than anyone anticipates, at which time they will proudly abide in the presence of the Lord, gazing down upon Satan and his legions, including those members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and their confederates in the school district and on its board, consigned to the sulfurous pit.


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