On Dec. 24, Judge W. Bruce Watson handed the City of Eureka some yuletide cheer by dismissing half of the lawsuit brought against it earlier in the year — the one that claims the city is violating the California Constitution by engaging in a couple of religiousy practices.
Watson’s Christmas Eve ruling told the City that the council may go forth with its practice of starting council meetings with an “invocation” — an appeal to non-specific sky gods asking that fortune smile on the proceedings to follow. Such invocations are perfectly lawful, Watson ruled, so long as specific gods are not favored over others.
But Watson’s narrow summary judgment in favor of the invocations leaves more than a few matters in the lawsuit — brought by local resident Carole Beaton and attorney Peter Martin — uh, up in the air, as it were. One: Did a Hindu religious leader cross the line into religious advocacy during one such invocation last year? What about that time someone used invocation time to sing “God Bless America”? Did those cross into (presumably illegal) advocacy? Watson leaves the question open for the nonce.
Secondly: What about Eureka Mayor Frank Jager’s “Prayer Breakfast,” which he has taken to holding every year at the (city-owned) Wharfinger Building? Did the mayor get the building at a discount for his Xtian activities? Did staff time go into promoting the event? Is that all OK, legally speaking, or no?
These questions remain open. But still: A win is a win. Was this Eureka Mayor Jager’s best Christmas present?
“I wouldn’t say it was the best I received all year, but it was good,” the mayor told the Outpost.
Read Judge Watson’s full decision here.