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Spend money on services instead of fighting prayer

Hooray to the Supreme Court for their decisive rejection of

Burbank’s moronic appeal to allow sectarian prayer at council

meetings, and an even bigger hooray to the late Irv Rubin for his


courageous insistence that Burbank show some sense and mend its ways.

Once, I attended a council meeting during the early 1990s and was

appalled to see a local preacher abuse his privilege by spending over

five minutes proselytizing to the captured audience with his


blatantly stated “witnessing to Christ.” This is exactly the kind of

thing that would have been allowed if our council had its way, and

why anyone would fight for this dubious right truly boggles the mind.

On this issue there is no debate: religion does not belong in City

Council chambers. Its suspicious why anyone would blatantly want to

inject it there -- although if I were engaging in as many bad-faith

tactics as this current Burbank crowd does, I would want to bring God

in on my side as much as possible. The hilarious thing here is that


by currently showing only a limited religious viewpoint in the

chambers, our pious council isn’t even following their own stated

policy of sponsoring a full expression of community diversity. When

was the last time you saw a Muslim or a Scientologist give the public

invocation? Don’t hold your breath waiting for one.

But the really serious questions remain both evaded and

unanswered. How much has this little reactionary episode cost Burbank

in legal fees? The council continually lies to the public by


repeatedly saying the whole case was done “in house” by city staff.

But no attorney in their right mind would take on specialized

appellate work on their own, especially at the level of the U.S.

Supreme Court. So how much did we secretly pay outside appellate

attorneys for their help, and how many “in-house” hours were billed

to the city attorney’s own budget?

Every hour we spent on this ridiculous case means one less hour

was available for city affairs. That means Burbank had less time to

help its tenants with intractable landlords, the way the Glendale

city attorney helps out its residents with housing problems. It means

we had less money for our library acquisition budget, or library

hours, or any of a hundred things that would have served us better

than currying favor with the most ignorant and reactionary members of

our community.



Burbank City Hall no place for prayer

No matter what anyone says, there is no “nonsectarian way” to

deliver a prayer. It’s an address to a deity, and each sect,

denomination or faith claims slightly different (sometimes wildly

different) attributes for their particular god. If all their gods

were the “same one,” as some Christians claim, we wouldn’t have the

variety of conflicting theologies and beliefs that we see in the


I don’t understand why the Burbank City Council (or any other

governing body, for that matter) can’t call a meeting to order

without having a prayer ritual. This archaic practice goes back to

the Romans, and beyond, who had to take the auspices before every

meeting of their Senate to make sure the gods favored that day for

conducting civic business. After 2,100 years, we really should have

outgrown that kind of thing.

All the City Council invocation really is, when all is said and

done, is a public-relations grandstanding opportunity for each week’s

chosen pastor, minister, priest, rabbi or whomever, and ought to be

dispensed with entirely. City Hall is not a house of worship, nor

should it be.