The right to speak and to pray, both touched on by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, will be taken up by the Hesperia Unified School District school board later this summer.


Changes to the public speaking rights of the public and the board's long-ago approved, but never enacted, invocation policy, were topics of discussion at a special school board meeting Thursday morning.


The board was scheduled to discuss a policy change that would trim the amount of time members of the public can address the board from five minutes to three. The new policy would also require members of the public to only address issues on that night's meeting agenda during the public comment session at the beginning of the meeting. The public would have the right to speak about whatever issue they liked, but only in a comment period that would only happen if the board got through the entire night's agenda, something the current board has rarely, if ever, accomplished.


"This is the most evil set of meeting rules I've ever seen in my life," said activist Bob Nelson. "If you want to stop people from speaking ... you've got a beautiful set of rules, folks."


The proposed rules were an attempt, "to address the balance between public comment and getting work done," said Superintendent Mark McKinney.


"None of these rules are enforceable in a court of law," Nelson said. "None of them."


The board also reviewed a revised policy for implementing prayer at the start of school board meetings. The board had approved having invocations a year ago, but following the threat of legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union, has never held an invocation.


But with the district struggling with deep budget cuts, board member Chris Bentley, who voted against the invocation policy, said the district can't afford to implement the policy now.


"You're putting our dollars at risk at a time when we can't afford it, for the sake of appearances," he said.


In the end, the board punted both issues to next month, tabling them until July's meeting.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star