Last week Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris was giving his yearly State of the City address when he made the remark that he was âgrowing a Christian communityâ. Almost immediately the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a federal Civil Rights Complaint with the Department of Justice citing that the Mayors remarks violated the civil rights of non Christians.
This is the same Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, which ended without any convictions in a mistrial. They are also accused of being a front for Hamas, being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee, associating with anti-Semitism, and have raised concerns within our government about the group’s foreign Arab funding. So they are not the most reliable point man in a civil rights suit. None the less they do bring up a valid point. Government and religion should not mix.
However Mayor Parrisâs âChristian Utopiaâ is only the tip of the iceberg. He also wants to start each City Council meeting with a Christian prayer. When questioned about this Parris said he thinks most people of other faiths understand and support him, but activists “want … a fight. They want their 15 minutes of fame.” Supporters of the Mayor say that all faiths have been welcome to do the invocations but according to the Daily News that appears not to be the case.
âAn archive of meeting agendas and minutes posted on the city’s Web site shows that 24 of the 27 invocations given in the past year were given by representatives of Christian groups including a dozen prayers led by Parris or a Planning Commission member. Two invocations were given by the Rev. Maxine Shiltz of the metaphysical Revealing Truth Center and one by a Girl Scout leader.â
The Daily News also reported that last August, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sent a letter to Lancaster officials saying it considered the invocation policy unconstitutional and warning of legal action unless it was halted. The City Council responded by putting the issue on the ballot.
Measure I asks voters if the Lancaster City Council should “continue its invocation policy in randomly selecting local clergy of different faiths to deliver the invocation without restricting the content based on their beliefs, including references to Jesus Christ.”
The ACLU again warned the city that if the ballot measure passes they will file a lawsuit that could cost Lancaster and its citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars. And since the California Superior Court already ruled a prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ” violated the U.S. Constitution’s establishment-of-religion clause, it is likely Lancaster will lose. Roger Jon Diamond, the Santa Monica-based attorney who successfully argued the case against Burbank said to the Daily News, âItâs a clear legal precedent for any city in California.â
In 1962 the Supreme Court Stated in a ruling of 6-1, âwe think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that, in this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.â Clear and simple for all to understand.
What Rex Parris says or believes as a private citizen is his own business but when he uses the mantle of a government office to push those beliefs on others I take notice. And, quite frankly so should you. I wonder what part of âRepresenting all the peopleâ does this man ânotâ understand. Lancaster is by no means a solely Christian community. True the majority of its citizens are Christian but even if there were only one other person in all of Lancaster that was not of the Christian faith that one person would still be protected by the constitution. If this man believes this strongly about his religion and finds it impossible to separate his own beliefs from the welfare of all his citizens then he needs to step down as Mayor and become an advocate for the repealing of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
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Copyright 2010 by Ira Schwartz – All rights reserved. Used by permission.