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PEORIA, Arizona (LifeSiteNews) — A Christian school board member in Arizona is suing her district for alleged violation of her First Amendment rights after she was barred from quoting the Bible during board meetings.

On Tuesday, conservative legal group First Liberty Institute and law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Heather Rooks, who was elected to the Peoria Unified School District’s Governing Board last year and began her term in January  2023.

A Peoria resident and a mother of four, Rooks has consistently begun her public comments during board meetings “by quoting a short scripture from the Bible,” the filing states, something that has “made her the target of outside activist groups, who barraged her with complaints, grievances, and threats of legal action.”

The board itself also “warned Rooks that, in the Board’s view, quoting scripture during a public meeting is unlawful.” 

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In a statement published by First Liberty, Rooks said she is “grateful to be a part of the Peoria Unified School board,” recognizes “the weight and significance of all of our decisions,” and finds “quoting scripture out loud to be encouraging to myself and to many in attendance.”

Rooks is bringing the legal action to “vindicate her statutory and constitutional rights as a Board member and citizen and to dispel the confusion that has regrettably clouded a practice as old as the Republic itself,” the filing states.

According to the lawsuit, Rooks began her comments on February 9, 2023, by reading aloud Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” the lawsuit states.

Shortly after the meeting, the legal director for a group called Secular Communities for Arizona, Inc. complained to the board that Rooks’ quotation from the Bible amounted to “unconstitutional proselytizing” in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The legal counsel for the board, Lisa Anne Smith, responded with an email informing members that they were not allowed to “pray or recite scripture during Board meetings,” the lawsuit states.

Rooks continued to recite short Scripture passages during her opening comments, however, sparking another letter from a separate activist group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., which argued in May that the board member and local mom was “using her position on the board to foist her personal religious beliefs upon district parents and community members.”

In June, the Freedom from Religion Foundation further threatened “liability and potential financial strain” if the board failed to censure Rooks or “take whatever action necessary” to stifle her Scripture recitation.

Once again, the board’s legal counsel sided with the activists, telling members in July that financial loss would ensue for the district if anyone continued to quote the Bible during meetings.

Following “months of sustained external pressure from outside activist groups and internal pressure from the Board itself,” the lawsuit states, “Rooks felt compelled to stop quoting scripture in her Board comments.”

“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,” Andy Gould, senior counsel at First Liberty said in a statement. 

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“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 as encouragement to the community at large,” he said.

First Liberty Institute has argued that Rooks’ recitation of Scripture passages doesn’t require “anyone else’s participation,” “accords with Arizona’s history and tradition,” and doesn’t “violate the Establishment Clause.”

When reached for comment, the Peoria Unified School District told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Wednesday it hadn’t yet been officially served with the lawsuit.