Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Rev. Bosma Attains Christian Martyrdom: Judge Says No More Sectarian Prayers In The House
It’s official. Rev. (or Speaker) Brian Bosma has become a Christian martyr. Federal district court judge David Hamilton ordered Speaker Bosma to discontinue his practice of permitting sectarian prayers at the opening of session days in the Indiana House of Representatives.
As the Indianapolis Star reported, "The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union against Speaker Brian Bosma, alleging that the prayers overwhelmingly promoted Christian beliefs to the exclusion of other faiths."
Judge Hamilton ruled today: “To summarize, the evidence shows that the official prayers offered to open sessions of the Indiana House of Representatives repeatedly and consistently advance the beliefs that define the Christian religion: the resurrection and divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Hamilton continued: “The Establishment Clause 'means at the very least that government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions). The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.’ The sectarian content of the substantial majority of official prayers in the Indiana House therefore takes the prayers outside the safe harbor the Supreme Court recognized for inclusive, non-sectarian legislative prayers in Marsh v. Chambers . . . "
Judge Hamilton’s order makes clear that it will not prevent the House from opening its session days with prayers: “This relief will not prohibit the House from opening its session with prayers if it chooses to do so, but will require that any official prayers be inclusive and non-sectarian, and not advance one particular religion.”
Hamilton’s order grants “a permanent injunction against the Speaker in his official capacity barring him from permitting sectarian prayer as part of the official proceedings of the Indiana House of Representatives.” It provides that “[i]f the Speaker chooses to continue any form of legislative prayer, he shall advise persons offering such a prayer (a) that it must be nonsectarian and must not be used to proselytize or advance any one faith or belief or to disparage any other faith or belief, and (b) that they should refrain from using Christ’s name or title or any other denominational appeal.