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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Judge Upholds Prayer Limits in Ind. State House - a Review and Preview

"Judge Upholds Prayer Limits in Ind. State House: Some in Both Parties Vow to Fight Ruling" is the headline to a lengthy story on page 3 of the Sunday, 1/1/06 Washington Post. Some quotes:

In a spirited duel over prayer, members of the Indiana state House are at odds with a federal judge who ruled that the daily invocation appeals too often to Jesus Christ and a Christian god.

The "systematically sectarian" prayers, U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton concluded, are barred by the Constitution, which forbids the government to show preference for any religious denomination. He ordered the House to avoid mentioning Christ in the formal benedictions.

As the House prepares to open its 2006 session on Wednesday, a number of politicians have vowed to defy Hamilton, whom they accuse of undermining a 188-year Indiana tradition and interfering in legislative branch affairs. * * *

Hamilton expects House leaders, including Speaker Brian Bosma (R), who is appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago, to honor the injunction. If they do not, the judge said, he intends "to take appropriate steps to insure compliance."

"If the Speaker or those offering prayers seek to evade the injunction through indirect but well understood expressions of specifically Christian beliefs, the audience, the public, and the court will be able to see what is happening," Hamilton, the son and grandson of Methodist ministers, warned in a Dec. 28 ruling rejecting a rehearing.

Bosma, who has termed Hamilton's injunction "intolerable," said Friday that he intends to arrange prayers that comply with Hamilton's ruling while the case is on appeal.

It was Clarence Brown's energetic rendition of "Just a Little Talk With Jesus" that prompted several legislators to decide enough was enough. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union soon filed suit in the name of four people -- a Quaker, a Methodist and two Catholics -- to stop what critics considered an increasingly sectarian prayer practice. * * * As Brown led the rollicking tune, some members and staffers clapped and sang along. Several others left the chamber. * * *

Bosma said he remains "frustrated that we have a federal court judge dictating what is stated by men and women of faith on the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives." He said previous prayer givers have told him they will not return if they cannot speak of Christ.

But Bosma, a lawyer first elected in 1986, said he will not honor calls for defiance. "Open defiance of the judge's order, I believe, would send the wrong message to every Hoosier and especially every young person, regarding obedience of the law, even laws you may disagree with personally," Bosma said. "As long as there is a constitutional means of appealing this ruling, we will pursue it."

The House of Representatives will reconvene on Wednesday, Jan. 4th at 1:30 p.m.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 1, 2006 08:08 AM
Posted to Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions | Indiana Government