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
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.