« Ind. Decisions - More today on school expulsion decision and its implications | Main | Ind. Gov't. - Limited access to Statehouse and adjoining buildings underway »

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Evansville paper editorializes on school prayer case

The Evansville Courier& Press has this strong editorial today on the school prayer case:

A federal appeals court will hear arguments today on the question of whether legislators and clergymen can lead sectarian prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives.

A federal court judge has already told the Indiana House that it can't open its sessions from the speaker's podium with prayers that endorse any particular religion. Members and guests can lead prayers from there, but they must be nonsectarian.

And why would legislators want to cross the line?

Why, in a nation sensitive about the separation of church and state, would they willingly create the perception that the government is endorsing a specific religion?

Regardless of those concerns, however, Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma has decided to appeal the decision made last year by federal Judge David Hamilton to ban sectarian prayers. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will hear arguments in the case today.

Bosma said that thus far it has cost approximately $67,000 in public funds to carry the lawsuit forward, but he is hoping for public donations to help defray the costs.

Without donations, that means that the Indiana House will have spent $67,000 in taxpayer funds on the weighty question of whether someone can step up to the Indiana House Speaker's podium, when the Legislature is in session, and lead the gathered representatives in a prayer that leans heavily to one religion.

It's baffling. Why should some ministers or legislators be allowed to proselytize for their religions from the leader's seat in the Indiana House of Representatives?

This is the official seat of state government, where we send our elected representatives to pass state budgets and laws.

Their responsibilities include issues such as education, health care, the environment, public safety and transportation, just to name a few. The members are there to discuss, to listen, to negotiate and to hammer out compromises on these and other issues. They are not there for a prayer meeting. It is a legislative work session.

That said, no member of the Legislature or visitor is prevented from praying to himself or herself, or in a group before, after and during the session. This applies as long as they are not disruptive. No one is denying members or guests of the Legislature their right to pray.

Of course, Hoosiers anywhere can pray as they wish. There are many who pray each week that they can stretch their paychecks from one Friday to the next.

That group, particularly, must really appreciate that House leadership is spending $67,000 of their hard-earned money for this ridiculous appeal.

The oral argument before the 7th Circuit in Hindricks v. Bosma takes place this morning. Later today, or tomorrow at the latest, you will be able to download it as an MP3 from this location on the 7th Circuit website.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 7, 2006 07:57 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions