Peoria Unified school board member sues district over Bible quotes at public meetings

Published: Wednesday, September 27, 2023 - 5:28pm
Updated: Thursday, September 28, 2023 - 8:35am
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A northwest Valley school board member is accusing the district she represents of violating her First Amendment rights on religion and free speech.

Heather Rooks wants a federal judge to declare that it's legal for her to quote Bible verses while making general comments at Peoria Unified school board meetings.

Rooks said at a July meeting that the district told her to stop quoting scripture because it was illegal.

Rooks also said she was giving way to her lawyers at the Texas-based First Liberty Institute where Andrew Gould is senior counsel. 

“So the reason why Heather recites scripture is just to give her strength during these very contentious school board meetings," Gould said. 

Gould used to be an Arizona Supreme Court justice.

He said Peoria has not shown a compelling interest to restrict his client’s speech.

“It’s just simply censorship and content-based restriction of her viewpoint," he said. 

A Peoria spokesperson says the district has yet to be officially served with the lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

“It’s because the district has told her to stop reciting verses. The district has told her that it's a violation of the Establishment Clause. So she really has no choice other than to protect her rights in court,” said Gould.