A notorious federal appeals court has ruled that a Southern California school board's policy of opening meetings with a prayer is unconstitutional.
The three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that banned the prayers by the Chino Valley Unified School District board of education as an "establishment of religion."
Robert Tyler, an attorney for the school board, said the board would "take this case as far as they can take it."
"There's nothing unlawful or unconstitutional about allowing an invocation or ceremonial prayer before school board meetings," Tyler said. He compared the practice to prayers before legislative sessions, which courts have allowed.
The 9th Circuit panel said some faiths were not represented on a list the board used to select the religious leader for the prayer. Agnostics and atheists were also not acknowledged, the court said.
"Instead, the prayers frequently advanced religion in general and Christianity in particular," the ruling says.
The decision came in a lawsuit filed against the district by some parents, students, employees and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The 9th Circuit has been derided as the "9th Circus" for its liberal rulings that have frequently been overturned by the US Supreme Court. It ruled in 2002 that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance were an unconstitutional establishment of religion, a decision that was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2004.
The US Supreme Court has reversed about 80 percent of the Ninth Circuit Court's rulings that were sent to it on appeal.