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Opening council meeting with prayers not offensive, one rabbi says

Irma Lemus

CIVIC CENTER-- Rabbi Paula Reimers likens the flap over prayers before

City Council meetings to the Old Testament story of the Prophet Jeremiah,

who asked Jews exiled from Israel to pray for peace in their city.

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Reimers of Temple Emanu El said that although the Jews were driven

from Israel to Babylonia in 586 B.C., Jeremiah told them to pray for

peace and enlightenment for the rulers.

“People should be allowed to pray. Our elected officials need all the

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help they can get. It’s a tough job,” Reimers said Tuesday.

Reimers said she disagreed with activist Irv Rubin, who said last week

that he will seek a federal injunction against public prayers in Burbank

and other Southern California cities.

Rubin, the national chairman of the Jewish Defense League and a

candidate for the 24th Assembly District seat held by Brad Sherman

(D-Sherman Oaks), spoke at the Nov. 23 Burbank City Council meeting,

accusing the city of making a “Christian pageantry of the proceedings by

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allowing Christian prayers and songs before the session. Rubin said the

practice blurred the line between church and state in violation of the

U.S. Constitution.

But speaking at her Glenoaks Boulevard Temple, Reimers said that

because Burbank embraces all religions and denominations at its meetings

the invocation is not offensive. As a member of the Burbank Ministerial

Association, she has been invited and delivered prayers before City

Council meetings, she said.

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“I don’t see this in the same category as prayer in public schools. In

schools there are people from many denominations and it is a Christian

prayer that is said. City Council members “accept all traditions and

they try to get people to volunteer and give a prayer,” she said.

Reimers added that at council meetings it is mostly adults in

attendance and that no one is required to pray. Instead, she said, the

prayer is intended to offer guidance to public officials, whatever their

religious affiliation.

Father Chuck Mitchell of St. Jude’s Episcopal Church agreed that

prayer in City Council meetings should remain.

“I feel that this is something the community wants and desires,” said

Mitchell.

Just as the separation of church and state gives citizens the right to

choose what church they want to belong to, they also have a right to

choose whether the practice has a place in City Council meetings.

“It’s a blessing,” he said.


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