Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Letter Regarding Sectarian Prayer At Eureka City Council Meetings

Redwood ACLU
PO Box 292
Eureka, CA 95502

November 25, 2008

Mayor Virginia Bass
Eureka City Council
531 K Street
Eureka, CA 95501

Dear Madam Mayor:

It has come to our attention that at the August 19th meeting of the Eureka City Council Pastor Rick McRostie of the First Covenant Church delivered a Christian prayer which was definitely sectarian. Since then, it is our understanding that other City Council Meetings have included a prayer. In Marsh v Chambers the US Supreme court ruled that if a legislative body chooses to open its meetings with a prayer, such prayer must not be "exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief". The prayers before the legislature that were upheld in the Marsh case were non-sectarian, in other words, the prayers were not specific to any particular religion.

We would appreciate it if you would inform us as to what measures will be used to ensure that in future meetings prayers if used are non-sectarian. This issue was litigated against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina after the Board refused to take the advice of their own attorney to ensure that future invocations were non-sectarian. The Board lost this case and was enjoined to ensure that all future invocations are to be non-sectarian.

We would be glad to consult with you as to how to uphold your oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.


Christina Allbright
Chair, Redwood ACLU

cc: Councilmember Larry Glass
Councilmember Mike Jones
Councilmember Jeff Leonard
Councilmember Linda Atkins
Councilmember Frank Jager
City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner

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