Victor Petersen and Staci Burk Stand Up for Prayer
Recently, I published two posts relating to the Gilbert School Board's 9/4/2012 refusal to reinstate a non-denominational Invocation to open its governing board meetings. These included Daryl Colvin Asks Gilbert School Board to Bring Back the Invocation and Some Stand Firm; Some Crumble. Since that time, Hayley Ringle of the Arizona Republic published an article titled Gilbert School Board Stance on Prayer Upsetting Some.
Board member Staci Burk had proposed that the Board merely "discuss" the issue of reinstating the Invocation, but 4 board members--EJ Anderson, Helen Hollands, Blake Sacha, and Lily Tram--refused. As you will note in Hayley's article, the basis of that refusal was "fear of a lawsuit."
When it comes to standing up for their own supposed beliefs in a Higher Power, they crumble. They won't even discuss their fears of a lawsuit from the Left in a public board meeting.
On the other hand, they and the Gilbert School District have no problem denigrating teachers, thus inviting potential lawsuits. See GPS Teacher Witch Hunt Could Cost Millions, GPS District Retaliation and a Former Board Member's Huge Mistake, and Feds Back Gilbert Teacher Claims EVIT Discrimination.
Gilbert Town Council Member Victor Petersen has recently weighed in on this issue. Please see his email to the Gilbert School Board, and Board Member Staci Burk's response below:
09/15/12 15:53 PM
Dear GPS Governing Board,
I have heard that the board has decided not to have prayers in the board meetings. I have also heard that the board is concerned about the legal liability that could be related to having prayers in the meetings. I understand those concerns, and in today's litigious world, it is important for the board to be careful on legal issues so as to protect the taxpayers from liability. However, I do believe there is a way to have prayers with minimal to no legal risk.
At the Town of Gilbert council meetings, we do have prayers. The policy related to them, which we repeat at each meeting, is as follows:
"The invocation may be offered by a person of any religion, faith, belief or non-belief, as well as Councilmembers. A list of volunteers is maintained by the Town clerk and interested persons should contact the Clerk for further information."
I believe this policy is sound legally and on principle. I don't believe it was ever the intent of the founders to protect government from religion but to protect religion from government. Government should treat all religions equally and protect the free exercise thereof.
Sunday, September 16, 2012 2:08 AM
Thank you Mr. Petersen. Yes, I reviewed case law on the issue and you are correct. Appelate Courts have ruled that invocations are constitutional as long as they are not dominated by one religion over another. Therefore as long as it is kept open to all, it is constitutional. In fact in some areas restricting the freedom of religious expression if that is the desire of the community can lead to litigation as well. (Emphasis by GilbertWatch.)
Thank you for your continued public service as well. It is greatly appreciated.
Warm regards as always,