It's back to court in Jesus' name

IndianaCapitol 01Indiana media were attentive to the prayer opening the legislative body's proceedings this week (earlier coverage). The ACLU and others had protested what they considered sectarian prayers at the opening of General Assembly sessions. They successfully sued in 2005, barring prayers in the Statehouse that used the name Jesus Christ or endorsed any single religion. That decision was tossed out on procedural grounds earlier this year, but that didn't mean the case was over. The Indianapolis Star was quick to update online readers with the news of what words were used in the opening prayer on Tuesday:

A state lawmaker invoked Jesus Christ during a prayer given this afternoon in the Indiana Senate.

The move is significant, because it marks the first time in more than a year that a sectarian prayer has been delivered before the Indiana General Assembly. ...

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, gave a minute-long prayer, that he ended by saying:

"We pray this in the name and beloved power of our Lord Jesus Christ and for his sake, Amen."

Anyone expecting the ACLU to say amen to that would be wrong. In time to make deadline for Wednesday's paper, the ACLU was considering suing over Kruse's invoking the name and power of "our Lord Jesus Christ" in his prayer:

But Ken Falk, an attorney with the ACLU of Indiana, said that if the Senate continues to invoke Jesus Christ in its prayers, his organization likely would sue on behalf of those who are subjected to, and offended by, the prayers.

"We certainly see no reason to back away from our legal claims," Falk said. "There's a high degree of probability that this will result in litigation."

It is good that those few words by Kruse received some coverage along with the suit, but there could have been more.

Some background on Kruse would be helpful (he's probably one of the most conservative and religious members of the General Assembly), along with maybe a word from him on why he chose the words he did. Democratic House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer's remark that he was surprised Kruse used the words he did doesn't quite pass the smell test. Anyone who knows Kruse would not be surprised that he invoked the name of Jesus Christ:

Bauer, D-South Bend, said Attorney General Steve Carter advised him not to give a sectarian prayer Tuesday because the 7th Circuit's decision is not final, and the court is considering a request to reconsider its decision from the ACLU.

"I'm not going to argue with a bunch of lawyers, but I've been advised by the attorney of record for us, the attorney general, that this ban has not been lifted," Bauer said.

Wasn't Bauer the politician who said that "censoring one particular religion is almost reverse discrimination" and that "the majority of people in" Indiana are Christian? If Bauer was on notice from the state attorney general that the ban was still in effect, that was news to most of us.

If you read between the lines, it is almost like Bauer is trying to play both sides of the coin. Bauer does not want to upset the state's large conservative voting bloc that swings between the Republican and Democratic parties, but he also does not want to upset the ACLU and its supporters and induce another expensive lawsuit. Reporters should highlight these polar opposite influences. In some ways, it represents the larger political conflict going on nationally.

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