Saturday, December 01, 2007

Indiana Lawyer Blasts Long Over Prayer Decision

The Indiana Lawyer doesn't often editorially weigh in on controversial social issues, but it took exception for a decision by Senate President Pro Tempore David Long to ignore the advice of Attorney General Steve Carter and allow a member to openly pray in the name of Jesus Christ at the body's Organization Day meeting. The 7th Circuit, which earlier decided the Indiana House prayer case for the plaintiffs, later dismissed the case for lack of standing after the Supreme Court issued an opinion near the end of this past term narrowing the circumtances under which a plaintiff has standing to sue in federal court in cases like this alleging a government action violating the separation of church and state. The editorial reads:

We’re not against prayer. We want to be upfront about that.

We are against arrogant elected officials, some of them lawyers, who appear to be more concerned about demonstrating how deeply religious they are instead of how their bombastic ceremony negatively impacts others.

It defies logic that the president of the Indiana Senate – a lawyer – could thumb his nose at the legal proceedings playing out in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Indiana Senate is not a party to the suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana against the Indiana House over that body’s practice of beginning legislative business with a sectarian prayer. U.S. District Judge David Hamilton in Indianapolis ruled sectarian prayers weren’t allowed, though the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decided last month the taxpayers didn’t have standing to sue and ordered the suit dismissed on procedural grounds.

But the ACLU of Indiana is asking the appellate court to rehear the case en banc, and the Attorney General’s Office has until mid-December to file a reply brief with the court. Attorney General Steve Carter has advised legislators to forego sectarian prayers in the interim. It’s Carter’s understanding that request for an en banc rehearing in effect stays the 7th Circuit’s order.

For the Senate to ignore Carter’s advice to their colleagues in the House and open Organization Day of the legislative session with a sectarian prayer to Jesus Christ seems to us to be nothing more than grandstanding

Jesus was pretty clear about what he thought about prayer done for ceremony. There’s a parable about that in the Gospel according to St. Luke, the 18th chapter. The religious leader who prayed aloud in front of everyone is held up in this parable as an example of how NOT to pray. The humble man filled with remorse who could not even hold his head up and prayed in the corner away from everyone is the example of a proper prayer in Christ’s story.

True, the Senate isn’t party to the earlier suit, but we sincerely hope the ACLU of Indiana remedies that as soon as possible. “When we strip away the law and standing issues, it’s just impolite and downright rude,” Falk said in a story that appeared in Indiana Lawyer Daily Nov. 21. “If either body of the legislature begins sectarian prayers and we fall back into that pattern, we’re back where we started.”

It’s exactly what we don’t need, and if it takes another lawsuit to prevent that, so be it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When an impartial and almost-always fair institution like TIL speaks on a subject like this, as usualk, they suck the oxygen out of the room. Nothing left to say.

May their tribe multiply.

My God weeps.