Complaint or No, Expect a Prayer to Begin Tonight's Yorba Linda City Council Meeting
"Local governments should not be in the business of performing religious rituals," reads a recent letter to the Yorba Linda council from the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
"Calling upon Yorba Linda City Council members and citizens to rise and pray is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government," the letter continues.
Tonight will be the next time the coercive and embarrassing Yorba Linda City Council will call upon those inside the council chambers to rise and pray. The council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month. And like other city councils around the country, members of local faith groups are invited to lead the assembly in an invocation before the bloody business of local governing begins.
This is generally done on a rotating basis that allows all local faith groups to be covered. But the Madisonians contend pre-meeting prayers of all stripes violate the "Establishment Clause" of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which has been found to prohibit government entities from endorsing religion.
It's unclear why the Freedom From Religion Foundation is picking on Yorba Linda when so many other councils start their meetings with prayers, although the group notes that leaders of the Land of Nixon frequently invite guest preachers who reference Jesus Christ.
"Such prayer creates acrimony . . . and shows un-Constitutional governmental preference not just for religion over non-religion, but Christianity over other faiths," claims the letter.
The flap brings to mind the recent suit brought by the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State against the South Orange County Community College District over prayers at certain functions. The matter was settled in April with the district board knocking off the prayers at some gatherings while still having commencement ceremonies include either a moment of silence or nonsectarian prayer.
The Yorba Linda City Council isn't ready to settle a lunch bill, let alone a complaint about pre-meeting prayers. The city attorney has been directed to write a no-thanks-but-God-bless-you response to Freedom From Religion Foundation.
As Councilman Mark Schwing recently told the Orange County Register, "I think they should find a country that doesn't believe in religion."
The Land of Gracious Living ain't that country.