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Supreme Court denies prayer case

Ben Godar

Invoking the name of Jesus Christ or any other deity will remain

prohibited at City Council meetings.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the city of

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Burbank’s appeal in a case that banned such religious references at

council meetings. Justices reviewed the case late last week, and

announced their decision without comment, a court official said.

Jewish activist Irv Rubin filed the lawsuit in 1999 after a Mormon

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bishop used the phrase “Jesus Christ” in a prayer before a council

meeting. A trial court ruled such invocations were unconstitutional,

a ruling that was upheld by the state appellate court.

Those who give the invocation in Burbank have been instructed not

to refer to specific deities since the initial trial court ruling, so

Burbank Assistant City Atty. Juli Scott said nothing will change.

“We gave it our best shot,” Scott said. “We don’t like the idea of

having to exclude anyone, but obviously the Supreme Court wasn’t

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concerned enough to take the case.”

Scott said she believed the religious prayers were legal because

clergy from a variety of faiths were invited to give the invocations.

The appellate ruling now makes it clear to cities that any sectarian

prayer is inappropriate, plaintiff’s attorney Roger Jon Diamond said.

“When Irv Rubin went to the council meeting, he did not know at

other meetings other religions would be allowed to do it,” Diamond

said. “Each council meeting should obey the Constitution, not if you

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average it out.”

The appellate decision made the ruling binding statewide, but

Diamond said many cities were not planning to enforce it until the

Supreme Court made a decision.

Diamond said the case was not an attack on religion, but a

challenge to when and where it is appropriate. He credited Rubin, who

died in December after an alleged suicide, with bringing the issue to

the forefront.

“We won every step of the way,” he said. “It’s too bad Irv’s not

around to enjoy it.”


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