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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ind. Decisions - More on: 7th Circuit denies stay of legislative prayer ruling

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has a comprehensive story this morning, by Niki Kelly, on yesterday's 7th Circuit decision in the legislative prayer case.

Here is the answer to one question the ILB had. The appeal continues, the only issue decided yesterday was whether Judge Hamilton's ruling would be put on hold while the appeal is pending. The three-judge panel yesterday ruled "no", by a 2-1 vote. But is this the same panel that will decide the appeal itself? The answer:

Although setting aside Hamilton’s decision was denied, the case continues on. [Ken Falk, who argued the case on behalf of the ACLU of Indiana] said briefs are expected to be filed by May with possible argument in the case in June. He also noted that it may or may not go before the same three-judge panel.
More from the story:
INDIANAPOLIS – Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma received what he considered disappointing news Wednesday when a split panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to temporarily set aside a decision regulating prayer from the House podium.

“Of course we’re disappointed, … but we aren’t shocked by it,” Bosma said. “I still firmly believe our ultimate relief will be at the United States Supreme Court level.” * * *

“I’m surprised the court issued such a lengthy decision, but I’m not surprised that (setting aside Hamilton’s decision) was denied,” said Ken Falk, who argued the case on behalf of the ACLU of Indiana. “I’m reluctant to look into it too much. Obviously we are happy the stay has been denied, but … we won’t know what will happen until we get there to argue the case.”

Bosma and other House and Senate leaders have denounced the ruling and halted the traditional prayer, asking for a stay of the opinion while they appealed further.

But two U.S. Court of Appeals judges ruled Wednesday that “in assessing the Speaker’s chance of success on the merits of his appeal and in balancing the slight and temporary injury he faces absent (setting aside Hamilton’s decision), we must conclude that the Speaker has not met his burden of establishing that (setting aside Hamilton’s decision) ought to be granted.”
The decision noted that prayer could have continued under the injunction issued but Bosma chose not to.

“In reply to the injunction, the Speaker chose to cut off all prayer and, it would appear, has sacrificed the core aspect of the tradition – beginning the session with an invocation for divine guidance – in order to continue a deviation from the House’s articulated desire that the prayer not be identified with any particular denomination.”

One judge dissented in the case, saying the federal court should give deference to the 188-year history of state legislative prayer while the appeal is pending.

“That deference cautions that we as federal judges should move prudently in this very sensitive area of constitutional law, which includes being reluctant to interfere with a state’s internal spiritual practices until it is clear that it is necessary,” the dissent said.

“If for those past 188 years the legislative prayer at issue here has occurred on the wrong side of what is at best a murky constitutional line, then we can at least provide the clarity of our opinion before placing a state legislative body under federal supervision.”

Falk noted that the “dissent certainly wasn’t saying he thought the Speaker’s legal argument was going to be victorious but that the balance of who is being harmed rested with the Speaker.”

Here is the Louisville Courier Journal story and the Indianapolis Star story.

Here is the link to yesterday's ruling in Hinrichs v. Bosma.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 2, 2006 07:46 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions