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Court upholds Legislature prayers

A federal court reversed a decision upholding a complaint against the Indiana Legislature for conducting Christian prayers.

Tuesday’s decision by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Hinrichs v. Speaker of the House cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year, Hein. V. Freedom from Religion Foundation, that rejected the right of taxpayers to challenge federal funding for religious groups unless they were directly affected by the program.

Jewish groups had watched the Hein case closely, fearing that the decision would severely restrict their ability to challenge government spending on religion.

That fear appeared vindicated by Tuesday’s decision extending Hein’s reasoning on federal monies to state funds, said Marc Stern, counsel for the American Jewish Congress.

“It shows how devastating Hein will be to the practice of church-state separation,” Stern said. “Now we’ve got to find individuals who were hurt.”

The American Jewish Committee noted that the prayers proffered in the Indiana Legislature were overwhelmingly Christian.

“Today’s 7th Circuit decision is extremely alarming because it denies taxpayers the right to challenge a legislative act that in practice gives preferential access to Christian clergy in determining who shall present a daily legislative prayer, “said Jeffrey Sinensky, the AJCommittee’s general counsel.

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