Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christian Legislative Prayer Enjoined In Indiana; Urged In Colorado City

In Hinrichs v. v. Bosma, decided yesterday by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, the court found that the Indiana House of Representatives, in opening its sessions with sectarian prayer, violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 14WFIE reported on the decision. (Also see prior related posting.) Here is an excerpt from the court's opinion:

the evidence shows that the official prayers offered to open sessions of the Indiana House of Representatives repeatedly and consistently advance the beliefs that define the Christian religion: the resurrection and divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. The Establishment Clause “means at the very least that government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions).... The sectarian content of the substantial majority of official prayers in the Indiana House therefore takes the prayers outside the safe harbor the Supreme Court recognized for inclusive, non-sectarian legislative prayers in Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983). Plaintiffs have standing as Indiana taxpayers to bring their claims, and they are entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief. This relief will not prohibit the House from opening its session with prayers if it chooses to do so, but will require that any official prayers be inclusive and non-sectarian, and not advance one particular religion.

Meanwhile, in Boulder, Colorado, the Daily Camera yesterday reported that the mayor pro-tem, Randy Ahrens, has suggested that City Council meetings be opened with a prayer to set a positive tone after a contentious campaign season. Two pastors offered prayers at the start of the first meeting of the newly-elected Council on Nov. 15. However, their remarks provoked controversy because both preachers represented Christian churches and invoked the name of Jesus Christ in the prayers. Members of Council seem about evenly split on the proposal.