Skip to Content

National watchdog group accuses D49 board of promoting personal religious views


EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- A national nonprofit organization is accusing a second El Paso County school board of promoting their own personal religious point of view.

At Thursday's Academy School District 20's School Board meeting, recently elected School Board Director Aaron Salt read a Benjamin Franklin quote following the pledge of allegiance. The quote encourages a bible in every house.

Wednesday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent the D20 a letter urging the district to avoid reciting religious quotes during public board meetings. The letter goes on to say that reciting a religious quote during a board meeting is very similar to a prayer, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The FFRF is a national state/church watchdog organization that has more than 31,000 nonreligious members and 20 chapters all over the country, including Colorado Springs.

Before reciting the quote at Thursday's meeting, Salt said he believed the quote was not religious.

“You can substitute the word Bible for Torah, Quran, Book of Mormon, or any other text you hold sacred," said Salt.  

Following Thursday's controversial quote reading, FFRF shifted its focus to Falcon School District 49's School Board after receiving seven complaints from stakeholders in the community, the non-profit accuses board members of using the public position to promote their religions.  

“The stuff going on in D49 is much more egregious," said Chris Line, a staff attorney with FFRF. "It’s much more clear cut.” 

Thursday, the Falcon School District 49 Board received a letter from FFRF regarding the allegations.

In the letter, obtained by 13 Investigates, the watchdog group accuses the board of holding prayer vigils outside the administration building before meetings.

The letter also alleges newly elected D49 board member Jamilynn D'Avola "proselytized a student in the District in an email sent as part of official District correspondence."

“A board member using their position on the board to tell a student they need to believe in Jesus Christ, it’s just completely inappropriate and not something a school board member should be doing,” Line said.

Below is what D'Avola is accused of telling the student:

God cares very deeply about every person and wants them to know who they are in Him… All people are created equal and no one can take that away from them because it was given to them by God. When someone fully understands who they are in Christ, then they will know they are valued and will be able to overcome depression and thoughts of suicide. They will know that there are only two genders and that there is absolute truth that comes from the Word of God. There is great freedom that comes from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father expect (sic) through Him. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, but with this freedom comes great responsibility. We are not free to do whatever we feel like, we must uphold the values and truth of the Bible. I know that you may not agree with me, and that is ok. I will still see you as the Lord sees you, as a child of the most high God who is loved and valued above all. You are unique, and God has given you special gifts and talents. I pray that God would reveal Himself to you so that you too can experience the love of the Father.

Thank you again for being willing to reach out to me to voice your concerns. You sound like a really neat kid and hopefully I can meet you someday. If you and your parents would like to meet with me and another board member please let me know and we can set this up.

District 49 board member Jamilynn D'Avola

In Nov 2014, the FFRF filed a complaint against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education in a California District Court. The suit alleged that the district's board meetings “resemble a church service more than a school board meeting."

A U.S. District Judge decided in favor of FFRF in 2016, finding that “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.”

The Chino Valley Unified School District Board appealed the District Judges decision but lost in 2019. The school board was ordered to pay more than $200,000 for the initial case.

Line said the FFRF is only asking the D49 school board to stop. However, should the pattern of behavior continue they could consider taking legal action against the board.

"The establishment clause means that the government can neither promote or endorse religion and so basically the government needs to be neutral on religious matters," Line said.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Dan Beedie


KRDO NewsChannel 13 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content