How would a prayer at city council meetings in California hold up if the invocation mentioned Tom Cruise or Scientology, a 9th Circuit judge asked.
“What if someone has an objection, not to Jesus Christ, but to Abraham or Mohammed or Martin Luther, Confucius, Buddha?” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain asked. “I mean we can make a long list, Tom Cruise and Scientology. Where do we draw the line?”
The judge put the amusing hypothetical to a lawyer fighting the recitation of prayers referencing Jesus at the start of every city council meetings in Lancaster, Calif.
Shelly Rubin and Maureen Feller filed suit over the practice in 2010, but a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled last year that the prayer survived the test laid out by the Supreme Court in 1983.
Claims about a prayer that makes a single reference to Jesus would require the court to analyze the content of the prayer, but that is barred under Marsh v. Chambers, according to the court.
“Because plaintiffs do not even claim the April 27 invocation was ‘exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief,’ this court cannot properly perform such an analysis,” U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer wrote.
Rubin and Feller’s attorney, Roger Diamond of Santa Monica, fine-tuned the claim last week before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit.
Saying that a pre-meeting invocation is fine, generally, the plaintiffs say that Lancaster violated the establishment clause by more commonly choosing Christian prayers over those of other denominations.
“In a period of about a year, and the council meets every two weeks, 20 prayers were given in the name of Jesus Christ,” Diamond said. “If it were an isolated situation then we might have a different case.”
He added that the appeal does not challenge an isolated event, but rather a city practice that led to repeated references to Jesus Christ.
Help Wanted (Christians Only): Taxpayer-Funded ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Proselytize and Discriminate in Hiring
Is it time to turn the tables on the religious right? If they want to make defunding planned parenthood their prime goal, then perhaps it’s time to defund faith based initiatives that violate constitutional principles.
As Resnick notes, “While federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on religious beliefs, there is an exception for religious organizations - a category that seems to include the Rapid City center and other [crisis pregnancy centers]. And in many cases, it’s perfectly legal for these groups to receive taxpayer funding, even if they practice religious hiring discrimination.”
This is more fallout from the ill-conceived “faith-based” initiative. For years, Americans United has warned that allowing sectarian organizations to take public funds and discriminate in hiring on religious grounds is unfair. This policy, combined with the rabid determination of lawmakers to control the private health matters of the people, has created this perfect storm.
The first step is to cut off all public money to these “crisis” clinics. They have the right to exist, but they should be treated like what they are, religious ministries, and denied tax aid. Let them get by on voluntary donations.
David Barton might be a popular speaker in conservative circles and considered a ‘historian’ and ‘constitutional expert’ by politico-entertainers like Glenn Beck and politicians like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But a scholar’s new review of Barton’s American history textbook (yes, he has one) exposes the Texan’s simplistic, selective and ideologically distorted accounts of the nation’s early history. The review by Prof. Steven K. Green for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund is available here.
Unlike Barton, Prof. Green really is an expert in constitutional law and history. He currently is a constitutional scholar, historian and law professor at Willamette University in Oregon. He also serves as director of the Willamette Center for Religion, Law and Democracy.
Prof. Green explains how Barton’s Drive Thru History America is peppered with factual inaccuracies, offers a simplistic and glorified view of the nation’s early history and promotes a sectarian perspective clearly intended to proselytize students. Prof. Green writes:
‘[The textbook] displays a clear devotional tone and contains a number of religious truth-claims that cross the line into promotion of a particular religion. Beyond this, the curriculum presents a problematic historical account of the founding period that falls well outside mainstream scholarly understanding, providing inaccurate, incomplete and biased profiles of various leading figures from that era.’