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CITY'S PRAYER BAN TO STAND BURBANK APPEAL WON'T BE HEARD.

Byline: Susan Abram Staff Writer

BURBANK - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review Burbank's appeal of two lower courts' decisions banning the City Council from opening meetings with sectarian prayers.

The high court refusal means all California cities and counties will be bound by the same prohibition, attorneys said.

``We won at every level possible, and it's incredible,'' said Roger Jon Diamond, representing Burbank opponents in the suit. ``The challenge we anticipate now is to see how other cities will change.''

The lawsuit, triggered by a 1999 prayer at a Burbank council meeting in which a Mormon minister invoked the name of Jesus Christ, was brought by Irv Rubin, the late chairman of the Jewish Defense League, and Roberto Alejandro Gandara, a supporter of strict church-state separation.

``This is one of Irv's legacies, a testament to my husband's belief in the Constitution,'' said his widow, Shelley Rubin. ``I will be as vigilant as my husband was to make sure that every city in the state that is sponsoring sectarian prayers is wrong.

``We want to make sure everyone feels welcome to practice the religion they want, but we want them to know in city hall chambers, we are all Americans,'' she said.

Burbank officials said they were disappointed with the decision.

``We would have liked to have had this looked at,'' said Burbank's chief assistant attorney, Juli Scott. ``You hate to be the city that makes the law that messes it up for everyone else.''

Since 1953, Burbank's City Council has begun meetings with an invocation by a member of a nondenominational ministerial association.

Attorney Douglas Collodel, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the International Municipal Lawyers Association and the other cities defending sectarian prayer, agreed the case will force changes statewide.

``It affects all legislative bodies in California, from the smallest city to the largest,'' Douglas said. ``To avoid being sued, many cities may decide to abolish prayer altogether.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 20, 2003
Words:325
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