"[The decision to appeal] is up to the City Council," Scott said
following the ruling Thursday by Judge Alexander Williams. "They'll have
to talk about it in closed session."
The council might discuss the matter at its Nov. 28 meeting.
In his ruling, Williams said the prayer opening the council meeting on
Nov. 23, 1999, was unconstitutional. Williams' ruling permanently
enjoined prayers at City Council meetings that promote one religion over
Irv Rubin, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League, and
Rosemead activist Alejandro Gandara, who is Christian, sued Burbank
nearly a year ago after Rubin attended a meeting where a Mormon pastor
ended a prayer "in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." On Friday, Rubin
said Williams vindicated his opinion that prayers singling out one
religion over others don't belong in the public sphere. Rubin said the
city should instruct pastors to offer more generic invocations.
"Don't pray to Jesus. Don't pray to Allah," Rubin said. "Pray to God
and you've got it made."
At issue in the Burbank court trial, which began Nov. 3, was whether
the offending prayer crossed the 1st Amendment line separating church and
state. Williams said the amendment's "establishment clause" was violated
in this case.
In his decision, Williams wrote, "All that is required is an
advisement that sectarian prayer as part of City Council meetings is not
permitted under our Constitution."
Scott had argued that the prayer was permissible because city
officials do not dictate what pastors can and cannot say, thereby
preserving the ministers' freedom to express their own religious views.
The city asks the Burbank Ministerial Assn. to pick the pastor who
delivers the invocation.
Councilwoman Stacey Murphy, City Clerk Judie Sarquiz and ministerial
association head Ron Degges testified that the city does not tell
ministers what they can say.
Councilman David Laurell reiterated that stance Friday.
"I think the money is not as much an issue as fighting for a 1st
Amendment right," Laurell said. "[But] you want to make sure when you're
spending taxpayers' dollars, you do it prudently."