City of Lancaster Invocation Policy, Measure I (April 2010)
Measure I asked voters if they wanted the Lancaster City Council to continue its practice of "randomly selecting local clergy of different faiths to deliver the invocation without restricting the content based on their beliefs, including references to Jesus Christ."
Measure I was placed on the ballot in response to a complaint filed against the city by the American Civil Liberties Union.
- These election results are from the Los Angeles County elections office.
In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to Lancaster officials, saying that the city's invocation policy is unconstitutional and threatening legal action if the city did not change its policy.
On May 4, two residents of Lancaster filed a lawsuit challenging the prayer policy. The lawsuit was filed by attorney Roger Jon Diamond on behalf of residents Maureen Feller and Shelly Rubin.
Role in mayoral contest
Differing views on Measure I were an issue in Lancaster's mayoral contest. Incumbent mayor R. Rex Parris, who won re-election handily on April 13, supported Measure I. Parris told an audience of pastors in January 2010 that Lancaster is "a growing Christian community."
Two other candidates for mayor, Arnold Rodio and David Talbot, opposed Measure I. Rodio said, "I strongly support a person's right to pray as they see fit. However, the City attorney has stated in a City council meeting that the current policy is illegal. I believe that this could have been resolved without the political posturing."
David Talbot said, "No city ballot initiative can overturn the Constitution of the United States, so it doesn't matter how anyone votes, only that we will be sued with no insurance to cover the cost for sure if it passes and likely anyway if it doesn't."
Lancaster is the eighth-largest city in Los Angeles County, California and the 9th fastest growing city in the United States. The population of Lancaster grew from 37,000 residents when the city was incorporated in 1977, to an estimated 145,074 residents in 2009.
The question on the ballot:
|Measure I: "In response to a recent complaint, with respect to the invocations that contained reference to Jesus Christ, shall the City Council continue its invocation policy in randomly selecting local clergy of different faiths to deliver the invocation without restricting the content based on their beliefs, including references to Jesus Christ?"|
According to an analysis of Measure I prepared by Lancaster's city attorney:
- "The ballot measure asks whether the City Council should continue to follow its adopted invocation policy. This policy provides that the City Clerk shall maintain a list of representatives of all religious organizations with an established presence in the community and shall select on a random basis individuals to provide the invocation at each meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission. Provided that the invocation is not used to convert others to a particular faith or disparage any faith or belief different than that of the speaker, the individual selected is free to offer the invocation according to the dictates of their own conscience and may include references to a particular deity."
The city attorney also said, "This policy is consistent with the holding of the U.S. Supreme Court in Marsh v. Chambers and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pelphrey v. Cobb County."
- Contra Costa Times, "Lancaster prayer ballot measure poised to pass", April 13, 2010
- Los Angeles Times, "Lancaster sued over prayer at council meetings", May 5, 2010
- Atheist Examiner, "Lancaster, CA votes Tuesday on prayer in city hall", April 11, 2010
- Contra Costa Times, "Lancaster voters approve prayers before meetings", April 14, 2010