Complaint or No, Expect a Prayer to Begin Tonight's Yorba Linda City Council Meeting

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The Yorba Linda City Council, which in the recent past was blasted for allowing an Islamic charity to rent community center space for a gala that teabaggy types likened to an al Qaeda monster truck jam, is now getting criticized for its own religulousness.

"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.
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4 comments
Dan Hilbert
Dan Hilbert

The Yorba Linda council people are not christian at all.  Christians that I know don't separate and divide.  These council meetings that have prayer incorporated into their meetings are meant to alienate people.  Sure, you may continue to violate the Constitution for a little while longer, but more and more people are getting sick and tired of your effrontery and arrogance.

Steve
Steve

The FFRF (http://ffrf.org) is not picking on Yorba Linda. It responds to complaints from members and non-members about any violations of church-state separation. Yorba Linda is one of many cities the FFRF has contacted about impermissible sectarian prayer in government functions.

The end of the article, endorsing the comments of Councilman Schwing, seems to say that only Christians are welcome in Yorba Linda. And that is exactly the problem.

The US Constitution talks about religion only in the negative. No religious test can be required for public office, and the government can neither support nor hinder the exercise of religion. The 14th Amendment makes these requirements binding on the states, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that they are binding on all levels of government.

Responding to GrayWoolfie, an elected official doesn't automatically get a pass to violate the Constitution by virtue of being elected. Indeed, the opposite is true: elected officials are required to uphold the Constitution.

If my comments don't seem persuasive, substitute Satanist for Christian in the description of the events under discussion. Would it be OK if everyone attending a Council meeting was required to stand respectfully while Satan was praised and Jesus cursed? Your discomfort at such a prospect is like what non-Christians, and even Christians of a different sect, often feel.

Finally, the FFRF does not oppose prayer or other religious observances by *private* individuals or groups. When the *government* imposes particular religious observances on everyone, that is a different matter. Your religious freedom is thereby under attack.

GrayWoolfie
GrayWoolfie

If the call to prayer is forced upon (ie asking everyone to stand up), then I agree this is not appropriate.  However, if prior to the invitation, the speaker asks only for those who believe, to participate in prayer, while at the same time, properly respecting those who decide otherwise,  then I do not see a problem with that, considering that the speaker is one that is elected by the people. 

Jesus never forced prayer upon anyone and neither was that the case in the rest of the new testament. Prayer is intended for those who believe or those open to the belief. Jesus also taught to love others. And love, by its definition, demands respect.

John
John

This is sad

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