INDIANAPOLIS – A lawmaker used the name of Jesus Christ in a prayer opening business at the Indiana Senate despite an ongoing court dispute.
State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, closed the minute-long prayer on organization day Tuesday with the words: "We pray this in the name and beloved power of our Lord Jesus Christ and for his sake, Amen."
Sectarian prayers in the Indiana House are the focus of an ongoing lawsuit by four taxpayers represented by the American Civil Liberties Association of Indiana who said the prayers — usually Christian — were offensive and violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
The Senate was not named in that lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge David Hamilton ruled in 2005 that prayers mentioning Jesus Christ or using terms such as savior amounted to state endorsement of a religion. But a U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 last month that taxpayers who sued over the prayers did not have the legal standing to do so. The ACLU of Indiana has asked the full court to rehear the case.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he decided to allow the mention of Christ in a prayer because of the 7th Circuit's decision. He said Judge David Hamilton's previous ruling violated lawmakers' right to free speech.
ACLU of Indiana attorney Ken Falk said the 7th Circuit did not rule on the constitutional issues and the group could file another suit if it received a complaint.
"This doesn't in any way make the practice any less unconstitutional than it was," Falk said of the ruling.
House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, read a non-sectarian prayer Tuesday in that chamber on the advice of Attorney General Steve Carter.