Indiana House Democratic leader wants sectarian prayer in chamber

by, January 16, 2007

When Democrats won control of the Indiana House in November, there was a glimmer of possibility that they would drop the outgoing Republicans' appeal of a judge's ruling barring sectarian prayers during official House business. (See the topic "November 2006 elections change speaker, not prayer policy," on the preceding page.) But last week, Speaker B. Patrick Bauer said that he will return sectarian prayer to the "front of the House" if the legislature prevails in the case, according to a Fort Wayne newspaper.

Kenneth Falk, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told JewsOnFirst, that it is his understanding that Bauer will continue his Republican predecessor's appeal. "He has not taken any action to dismiss it," Falk said.

The ACLU sued to stop the Republicans' practice of sectarian prayers. Those prayers were predominantly Christian and sometimes involved proselytizing, according to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

A federal district judge halted the prayers in December 2005. The Republican speaker appealed the ruling and the Bush administration joined the case on the speaker's side. (More in the topic "Appeals court hears arguments on House Speaker's appeal of federal court ban on sectarian prayer" on the preceding page. )

When the court heard arguments in the case last fall, said Falk, "it was clear that the judges were cognizant, if not concerned, that their decision might affect prayer practice in Congress."

The decision could be announced at any time. If the court reverses the district judge's ruling, Falk said he would consult his clients -- private citizens -- about an appeal.

In November the Democrats' spokesman told JewsOnFirst that Bauer was aware of the Jewish community's objection to the sectarian prayers. Today the spokesman did not return a call requesting comment.

A year ago, in a discussion with Jewish leaders who were advocating an end to sectarian prayers, then Speaker Brian Bosma retorted "How many Jews are there in Indiana? About two percent?" More here.

TOPIC: Church-state Separation > Government-sponsored Sectarian Prayer