Lawsuit against the district: church and state conflict

Alica Danesh

A lawsuit has been filed against the South Orange County Community College District for holding official prayers during public ceremonies.

In the case, Westphal v. Wagner, plaintiff Karla Westphal, mathematics instructor at Saddleback College filed a suit against Don Wagner, president of SOCCCD board.

”The economy is bad- this sounds like a stunt to pull up money,” said Thomas Dolan, 21, theatre.

Other plaintiffs involved in the case include Saddleback and IVC instructors: Alannah Rosenberg, Margot Lovett, Claire Cesareo-Silvais and Roy Bauer. Former Saddleback student Ashley Mockett as well as two current students who are remaining anonymous are involved.

The defendants are: Donald P. Wagner, SOCCD Board President; John S. Williams, Board Vice President; Thomas A. Fuentes, Board Clerk; Raghu P. Mathur, District Chancellor; and Tod A. Burnett, President of Saddleback College.

The case targets prayer being held at Saddleback in student and faculty events including: award ceremonies, commencement ceremonies, and faculty meetings.

“I think it’s perfectly fine to have a religious prayer in ceremonies,” said Erika Siegel, 20, English literature.

According to, Westphal attended Saddleback’s scholarship ceremony in 2004 and was asked to present a scholarship on behalf of the Mathematics Department. She was offended when a trustee delivered a prayer as part of the ceremony.

Westphal funded two scholarships in 2009, but did not present them at the ceremony due to the official prayer.

An anonymous commentator on the website wrote, “I recommend pursuing the lawsuit- it makes for an excellent Sunday reading. Thanks for doing this. It needs to be done.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email