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Statements from Political and Civic Leaders to Lancaster, Calif. Elected Officials

Statements from Political and Civic Leaders to Lancaster, Calif. Elected Officials
Following are statements from political and civic leaders to Lancaster, Calif. Mayor Rex Parris and City Councilwoman Sherry Marquez following comments by both elected officials that displayed ignorance of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause and of the basic tenets of Islam.
California Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-Torrance)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

For background information and an update, see:
CAIR, Muslim Leaders Welcome Lancaster Mayor’s Apology for ‘Christian Community’ Remarks

Contact: Jeff Gozzo 916-319-2053
February 1, 2010
Lancaster Councilwoman Sherry Marquez’s Comments “Wrong, Dangerous & Anti-American”
Lieu Calls on Councilwoman Marquez to Resign
(SACRAMENTO) — Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) released the following statement today in response to comments made by Lancaster Councilwoman Sherry Marquez regarding the Muslim American community:

“I served on active duty in the United States military because America is the best country in the world, and Americans are decent, hardworking, caring people. Just look at the amazing responses from Americans to the disaster in Haiti. But every now and then one of our elected officials dishonors this great country and the citizens that reside here. Lancaster Councilwoman Sherry Marquez’s deliberate, written comments attacking Americans who happen to be Muslim are wrong and dangerous.
“Ms. Marquez compounded her comments by continuing to refuse to apologize to the Muslim-American community. What Ms. Marquez fails to understand is that being an elected official is a privilege, and public service is an honor. Her comments dishonor more than just Lancaster; they cast negative light on California and our great nation, a nation built on diversity, tolerance, and respect for others.
“The statements made by Ms. Marquez are similar to the ones that provoked hate crimes against minorities; justified the unlawful internment of American citizens of Japanese descent; and resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act. History teaches us that xenophobia is dangerous and un-American.
“Because Ms. Marquez still does not understand the gravity of her comments and continues to refuse to apologize to the American citizens she has harmed, she should resign now.”

Assemblymember Ted W. Lieu served on active duty as a JAG officer and military prosecutor. He is Immediate Past Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and a member of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State
National Office
518 C St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 466-3234
(202) 466-2587 fax
February 1, 2010
Mayor R. Rex Parris
Lancaster City Hall
44933 N. Fern Avenue
Lancaster CA 93534
Dear Mayor Parris,
I was surprised recently to read your comments that Lancaster is “a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that” and that you want city residents “standing up and saying we’re a Christian community, and we’re proud of that.”
As the mayor of a growing city of nearly 145,000 people, you surely must know that your community includes people of many different faiths and none. I have no doubt that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and others call Lancaster home.
Aside from being inaccurate, your comments are insensitive and divisive. I urge you to issue a prompt public apology and affirm your support for the fundamental constitutional principle of church-state separation.
I understand you made these comments while urging Lancaster residents to approve a ballot measure that would allow prayers at city meetings, even if those prayers refer to specific deities.
This scheme is problematic and almost certainly unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that prayers before government bodies must be non-sectarian. Several lower federal courts have struck down sectarian prayers before municipal government meetings. Recently, a federal court in North Carolina struck down sectarian prayers in Forsyth County. As a result of the Joyner v. Forsyth County lawsuit the community had to spend money it could ill afford defending itself in court and will also have to pay significant attorneys’ fees.
Similarly, in 2002, a California appeals court held in Rubin v. Burbank that the presentation of sectarian prayers at city council meetings runs afoul of the federal Constitution. Lancaster has no greater chance of succeeding in litigation than did the City of Burbank.
Lancaster’s own Web site states, “People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds call Lancaster home. We take pride in our diversity and recognize that each individual contributes to making our City a stronger, more vibrant community.”
You are right to take pride in that diversity; it does indeed make your community stronger and more vibrant. Your recent comments have failed to appreciate the spirit of those words. I urge you to rescind your ill-considered comments and give up the crusade to bring sectarian prayers to city government meetings.
Barry W. Lynn
Executive Director
Americans United for Separation of Church and State


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