Government meeting invocations questioned, changed, and dropped
Judging by recent news stories, the next big battle regarding the relationship between church and state may be over invocations at local government meetings.
Ground Zero is likely to be Burbank, California. A lawsuit over a City Council meeting prayer that included the words "Jesus Christ" is already working its way through the courts. Last month, the California Supreme Court declined to review the case, leaving in place a ruling against the prayer and a court order that the city "advise anyone conducting a prayer as part of the City Council meeting that sectarian prayers are not permitted."
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that Burbank may now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thirty-four California cities filed friend of the court briefs supporting Burbank when the city appealed to the California Supreme Court. If Burbank does ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, expect many other cities nationally to also stand behind them.
"We feel it's unconstitutional to tell a minister how to pray," Margaret Clark, a member of the Rosemead, California, City Council, told the Tribune. "We feel it's a violation of their freedom of speech. … I can't imagine a public that wouldn't want their elected officials to realize they don't have all the answers and need wisdom from a higher power."
Talking to the Pasadena Star News, John Mastrogiovanni, president of the Monrovia Ministerial Association and pastor of the Jesus is Lord Christian Center, joked that the ruling may require the city council to mumble the name of his church. "This is broader than just Christian," he complained. "In the name of not being offensive to others, it's also saying now you can't be who ...1