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Judge Bars Opening Prayer at City Council

November 17, 2000

BURBANK — A judge ruled Thursday that the City Council may no longer begin meetings with a sectarian prayer.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams III decided that prayers referencing specific religions violate the principle of separation of church and state in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

Burbank leaders were disappointed by the ruling but have not decided whether to appeal.

"I'm disgusted . . . but I'm not sure whether an appeal would be worth the money," said Councilwoman Stacey Murphy.

Although invocations will still be allowed, Burbank officials must now advise all clerics that "sectarian prayer as part of City Council meetings is not permitted under our Constitution," Williams wrote in his ruling.

Although Burbank officials had said such advice would violate clerics' 1st Amendment free speech rights, Williams disagreed.

"Is it permissible under the Constitution for the city of Burbank to provide guidance concerning the content of invocations offered as part of City Council meetings? Plainly it is," he wrote.

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