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Posted 07 Dec 2001   For week ended November 30, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Nov01

By Kent Larsen

California Cities Support Appeal of LDS Prayer Case

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA -- The city of Burbank is appealing a trial court ruling that an LDS prayer at one of its council meetings was unconstitutional since it mentioned "Jesus." Now 34 other California cities have joined Burbank's appeal, hoping to prove that prayers at government functions that mention Christ are constitutional.

The prayer was given November 23, 1999 by Bishop David King of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who had volunteered to give the prayer through the Burbank Ministerial Association, an ecumenical group that draws on religious leaders throughout the city for the council's prayers. Following LDS custom, the prayer ended in the name of Christ.

But that offended at least one person attending the meeting. Irv Rubin of the Jewish Defense League said "No Jew, no matter how liberal, can feel totally comfortable with a prayer that includes Jesus Christ. . . . It makes any non-Christian feel like an outsider." Rubin filed a lawsuit against the city, saying that his constitutional rights were violated by the prayer, and in November 2000 a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge issued an injunction prohibiting Burbank from "sectarian" prayers. Following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, prayers may still be made by ministers, but the injunction prohibits them from being specific to any religion.

Attorneys representing the 34 California cities filed a 28-page brief Tuesday with the California state Court of Appeal, asking the court to overturn the ruling. "Dozens of cities and towns throughout California begin their meetings once a month, or twice a month as the case may be, with an invocation. Thirty-four of those municipalities are sufficiently alarmed by the trial court's opinion to join in this brief and urge reversal of that opinion," wrote attorney Peter Pierce in the brief.

Pierce also claims that the injunction that Rubin got actually violates the constitution, "The terms of the judgment violate the free speech rights of the volunteers, representing a multitude of faiths, who deliver the invocation at Burbank City Council meetings," he writes. But Rubin's attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, disagrees, "It does not violate the 1st Amendment for the state to hire a full-time chaplain to provide invocations or prayer before legislative meetings, but that's not our issue," said Diamond. "We did not challenge the invocation in general. We challenge the nature of the invocation. The answer is that there is probably no case right on point on either side. If there were, there would be no reason to litigate this."


Cities flock to Burbank's defense
Los Angeles Times 24Nov01 T4
By Ryan Carter


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