CIVIC CENTER -- With neither side willing to flinch, a September court
date has been set in a lawsuit filed by a San Gabriel activist over the
constitutionality of Christian prayers before City Council meetings.
Irv Rubin, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League, contends
the denominational prayer he witnessed at the Nov. 23 council meeting
violated the separation of church and state by invoking the name of Jesus
Christ. Rubin attended the November meeting -- his first in Burbank -- to
voice his views on airport expansion, he said.
Rubin announced his intention to sue in December.
Set for Sept. 15, the proceedings will take place in county Superior
Court. Rubin's suit seeks to force the city to permit only
"I would have no problem if it was just a prayer to a god," Rubin
said. "I do have a problem with denominational prayers. The Founding
Fathers promised us in the First Amendment that there would be no
The ministers who deliver the invocations are selected by the
multidenominational Burbank Ministerial Association and not the city.
City officials say interfering with the ministers' prayers would be an
infringement of the association's right to free speech. They point out
that the association's members are not all Christians.
As he has previously, City Atty. Dennis Barlow defended the city's
invocation, saying the prayers do not violate anyone's rights. He said
the U. S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right to pray before government
"It won't be much of a trial. It's not a factual issue, but a legal
issue," Barlow said. "(The prayers) aren't an attempt to offend anyone."
Rubin's attorney, Roger Diamond, said the lawsuit is actually
"We are not attacking religion or prayer, but we think the appropriate
place to pray is in a religious facility or in the home," Diamond said.