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Invocation of Christ's Name at Council Meetings Challenged

November 02, 2000

BURBANK — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear a case Friday challenging the right of ministers to invoke the name of Jesus Christ at Burbank City Council meetings.

Jewish activist Irv Rubin filed suit against the city to halt the references at the invocation before meetings. Rubin said Christian references promote that religion over others and violate the 1st Amendment.

Burbank officials say Rubin's demand is unlawful because it would force the city to censor speakers, adding that the council has no role in selecting the clerics who give the invocations.

City officials say the Burbank Ministerial Assn. chooses the clerics from a list of volunteers. Members of all faiths are welcome, they say.

Rubin, executive chairman of the Jewish Defense League, said he attended a City Council meeting last November at which a Mormon minister referred to Jesus Christ in his invocation. Rubin said he felt excluded.

"No Jew, no matter how liberal, can feel totally comfortable with a prayer that includes Jesus Christ. . . . It makes any non-Christian feel like an outsider," he said.

USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky said Rubin may have a point. Although a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows legislative bodies to employ chaplains, it did not allow for sectarian prayer, he said.

The case is scheduled to be heard Friday by Judge Alexander Williams III.

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