An Arizona school board member who was forced to stop quoting the Bible during meetings is now suing her district for violating her free speech.
Heather Rooks filed the lawsuit with the First Liberty Institute (FLI) against the Peoria Unified School District after it ordered her to stop quoting Bible scripture during board meetings.
The lawsuit alleges that they violated Brook’s right to free speech with the instruction.
According to Rooks, the school claimed that her Bible-quoting violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The School board member began quoting Bible scripture during opening statements at meetings in 2022.
However, various left-wing activist groups began issuing complaints against Brooks for her scripture quoting.
First Liberty provided to FOX News, writing:
“Since the beginning of her public service on the board, Ms. Rooks has opened her comments by quoting a short scripture from the Bible.”
“The Peoria School Board subsequently received letters from anti-religious organizations demanding it stop Ms. Rooks from reading scripture,” the statement added.
Last year, Rooks recited Isaiah 41:10, saying, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”
She continued, quoting, “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The lawsuit alleges that following the meeting, leftist activist group Secular Communities for Arizona made a formal complaint to the school board, accusing Rooks of performing “unconstitutional proselytizing.”
The complaint resulted in the board’s legal counsel, Lisa Anne Smith, sending a letter to board members informing them they “couldn’t pray or recite scripture during Board meetings.”
Meanwhile, another left-wing activist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, threatened legal action against the board, accusing Brooks of “using her position on the board to foist her personal religious beliefs upon district parents and community members.”
A May 25 letter from staff attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Christopher Line, he accused Rooks of having “openly embraced Christian nationalism and invites her supporters to attend board meetings en masse, sometimes causing disruptions to the official proceedings.”
Undeterred, the school board member continued quoting the Bible until August this year.
She was then told by the board’s chair to “stop quoting scripture during meeting time specifically set aside for board members to comment on any topic they choose,” the lawsuit alleged.
Rooks said she was eventually compelled to stop quoting scripture, which FLI argued violated her rights under the Constitution, citing several examples of government officials from “Presidents Washington and Lincoln up through President Biden” who had quoted scripture during their official duties.
Rooks then filed the suit, claiming that her “practice accords with over 200 years of this Nation’s historical practices and understandings.”
The suit added:
“Public officials from Presidents Washington and Lincoln up through President Biden routinely recited scriptures while performing their official duties.”
First Liberty senior counsel Andy Gould defended Rooks in a statement:
“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 and encouragement to the community at-large,” the statement continued.
Included in the statement was a quote from Rooks, who said:
“I am grateful to be a part of the Peoria Unified School board.”
“As a member of the school board, I understand the weight and significance of all of our decisions, and simply find quoting scripture out loud to be encouraging to myself and to many in attendance.”