INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–The Indiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Unions says it is appealing a prayer decision that went against it last month to the full U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a 2-1 ruling Oct. 30, a circuit court panel tossed out an ACLU lawsuit that had sought to ban sectarian prayers — such as those mentioning Jesus’ name — in the Indiana House of Representatives. The majority ruled the four taxpayers the ACLU represented did not have standing to bring the case.
The ACLU is asking the entire court to consider the case, The Indianapolis Star reported.
The lawsuit garnered national attention in 2005 when U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton ruled the prayers must be “non-sectarian” and must not mention “Christ’s name or title or any other denominational appeal.”
But the circuit court majority overturned Hamilton’s decision, ruling the lawsuit lacked standing because the four citizens had “not shown that the legislature has extracted from them tax dollars for the establishment and implantation” of a program that supposedly violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The panel did not rule on the constitutional questions.
The ruling was a victory for Christian law firms who had filed legal briefs in the case, asking the judges to reinstate the practice of praying in Christ’s name.
“Those who oppose Christian invocations are essentially saying that the [nation’s] Founders were violating the Constitution as they were writing it,” Glen Lavy, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, said at the time. “People of all religions have always had an equal opportunity to offer prayer before Indiana legislative sessions, and this ruling ensures that those who offer prayers in the name of Jesus will not lose that opportunity either.”
So far the judges in the case have split along political lines. The two circuit judges in the majority were Reagan appointees. The dissenting judge, along with Hamilton, were Clinton appointees.
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.