Friday, July 15, 2011

City Council Prayer Policy Upheld

In Rubin v. City of Lancaster, (CD CA, July 11, 2011), a California federal district court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to prayers with references to Jesus that were delivered under the invocation policy of Lancaster, California City Council.  Under the policy, which had been approved by voters in a referendum, all religious congregations with a presence in the city are invited to volunteer to lead an invocation.  Any single congregation is limited to no more than 3 times per year, and so far everyone who has volunteered has led an invocation.  In this lawsuit, plaintiffs limited their challenge to the invocation with explicit Christian references delivered at one meeting they attended. The court held:
Plaintiffs have failed to establish that the Policy has been used for an improper purpose or is otherwise unconstitutional. Volunteers of numerous faiths are invited to and have given invocations before City Council meetings, and the selection process does not discriminate against any faith. 
... Determining that the April 27, 2010 invocation violated the Establishment Clause by its single reference to Jesus would require this Court to analyze the content of the prayer. But because Plaintiffs do not even claim the April 27 invocation was “exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief,” this Court cannot properly perform such an analysis.... Because their evidence fails to show the April 27 invocation (or the Invocation Policy itself) would have the “effect of affiliating the government with any other one specific faith or belief,” Plaintiffs have not shown an Establishment Clause violation.
According to Wednesday's Los Angeles Daily News, plaintiffs plan to appeal to the 9th Circuit.