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.
Hosni Mubarak Sentenced to Life Term by Egyptian Court: ‘It is all an act. It is a show. It is a provocation.”
An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced former President Hosni Mubarak to life in prison as an accomplice in the killing of unarmed demonstrators during the protests that ended his nearly 30-year rule.
But a conviction that once promised to deliver a triumph for the rule of law in Egypt and the Arab world — the first Arab strongman jailed by his own citizens — instead brought tens of thousands of Egyptians back into the streets. They denounced the verdict as a sham because the court also acquitted many officials more directly responsible for the police who killed the demonstrators, and a broad range of lawyers and political leaders said Mr. Mubarak’s conviction was doomed to reversal on appeal.
Presiding over a three-judge panel, Judge Ahmed Rafaat said that prosecutors had presented no evidence that either Mr. Mubarak or his top aides had directly ordered the killing of protesters. Instead, the judge found that Mr. Mubarak, 84, was an “accessory to murder” because he failed to stop the killing, a rationale that lawyers said would not meet the usual requirements for a murder conviction under Egyptian or international law.
The judges also sentenced Mr. Mubarak’s feared former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, to the same penalty for the same reason. But they dismissed corruption charges against Mr. Mubarak and his deeply unpopular sons, Alaa and Gamal, on technical grounds.
By nightfall, demonstrators filled Tahrir Square in a protest that matched the size and ideological diversity of the early days of the revolt, with Islamists and liberals once again protesting side by side. Protesters poured into the streets of Alexandria, Suez and other cities to rail against what they saw as a miscarriage of justice.
“It is all an act. It is a show,” said Alaa Hamam, 38, a Cairo University employee joining a protest in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the uprising. “It is a provocation.”
The longtime ban against political advertisements in public television and radio is unconstitutional, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.
A divided panel struck down the prohibition but said public stations can continue to forbid for-profit companies from buying air time. Judge Richard Paez warned, however, that the move could bring about the end of public broadcasting.
“For almost sixty years, noncommercial public broadcasters have been effectively insulated from the lure of paid advertising,” Paez’s dissent states. “The court’s judgment will disrupt this policy and could jeopardize the future of public broadcasting. I am not persuaded that the First Amendment mandates such an outcome.”
His colleagues on the three-judge panel found no evidence that political ads would necessarily degrade the government’s interest in preserving educational programming.
“There is no evidence in the record - much less evidence which was in the record before Congress - to support Congress’s specific determination that public issue and political advertisements impact the programming decisions of public broadcast stations to a degree that justifies the comprehensive advertising restriction at issue here,” Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority (emphasis in original).
Federal judges hearing a lawsuit over election redistricting in Texas exceeded their authority when they jettisoned maps that had been approved by the state Legislature and replaced them with maps of their own.
In an unsigned unanimous opinion on Friday, the US Supreme Court said a three-judge panel in San Antonio should have deferred to legislatively-drawn maps whenever possible and only departed from the enacted maps when necessary to avoid a likely violation of the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution.
The dispute is significant because how election maps are drawn can impact who is elected and which political party prevails. With four new congressional districts in Texas, those and other newly drawn could play a key role in which party controls Congress next year.
The Republican-controlled Legislature’s maps were challenged by minority rights advocates and others who said they were drawn so as to minimize the likelihood of minority candidates being elected.
Redistricting 101: Eight facts about redrawing the US political map
The high court said the federal judges in Texas were wrong to award themselves the power to draft new election districts and to base their effort on their own conception of what is best for Texas voters.
Setting the boundaries for congressional and other districts is a political task best left, as much as possible, to elected political leaders, the court said.
“To the extend the District Court exceeded its mission to draw interim maps that do not violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act, and substituted its own concept of ‘the collective public good’ for the Texas Legislature’s determination of which policies serve ‘the interests of the citizens of Texas,’ the court erred,” the justices wrote.
“Because the District Court here had the benefit of a recently enacted plan to assist it, the court had neither the need nor the license to cast aside that vital aid,” the justices said.