supreme court

new case on religion in public

The chairman of the local Baha'i congregation concluded his prayer with "Allah-u-Abha," which loosely translates to "God the All-Glorious." A Jew offered a prayer speaking of "the songs of David, your servant." And a Wiccan priestess, mindful of her venue in the town of Greece, N.Y., thought that Athena and Apollo were apt deities to call upon.

But they were the exceptions. Almost every other "chaplain of the month" during a decade of town board meetings in this Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., was a Christian, and more often than not called on Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit to guide the council's deliberations.

Susan Galloway, uncomfortable with the sectarian prayers, and Linda Stephens, an atheist, had objected to sitting through the invocations after the board changed from its old practice of beginning the meetings with a moment of silence.

A federal appeals court said last year that such a "steady drumbeat" of Christian invocations violates the Constitution's prohibition against government endorsement of religion. Now, the issue is to come before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Few phrases in the Constitution have divided Supreme Court justices quite like the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which says simply: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." What has proven complicated is defining the boundaries of religion's inclusion in public life. Issues such as prayer in public schools, accommodation of certain religious practices, and the display of crosses, crèches and other religious symbols have produced a series of constitutional tests for the court and case-by-case rules that please few.

Washington post


mayoral race one piece of puzzle

If people along the streets of Detroit seem less than consumed by the prospect of choosing a new Mayor Tuesday, perhaps it is the barrage of distractions: the governor who has been testifying about Detroit's descent into bankruptcy; the appointed emergency manager who has brought in his own team to run City Hall; the long list of questions about the fate of this city's artwork, its streetlights, its tens of thousands of empty buildings.

Yet Detroit's mayoral election is one more piece of a puzzle unfolding here as a city that has long wrestled with dysfunction and debt seems to be throwing everything up in the air and searching for a way to start over. Some in Detroit say the choice is stark: traditional Detroit politics vs. some new, more technocratic way forward.

Benny Napoleon, the sheriff of Wayne County and a longtime police officer who is running for mayor, has drawn support from some labor unions and ministers. He is trailing in the polls against Mike Duggan, a former hospital executive who is credited with returning fiscal health to Detroit Medical Center and has the backing of many business leaders.

Duggan has pledged to improve extraordinarily long police response times, get tens of thousands of streetlights back on and fill some of the city's thousands of empty homes with new families.

But Napoleon, 58, has raised questions about Duggan's credentials, noting that Duggan lived in the suburbs, not the city, just before announcing his bid. Napoleon's plans include a police officer with special responsibilities in each of the city's 139 square miles; more data-driven crime-fighting techniques; and anchor developments to bolster neighborhoods.

Duggan and Napoleon are both Democrats.

new york times


high-profile races to watch in N.J., N.Y.

An unabashedly liberal Democrat and a confrontational conservative Republican were barreling toward near-certain victories in two of this year's highest-profile races in the Northeast, for mayor of New York City and governor of New Jersey.

The final weekend of campaigning in New York City capped a costly political marathon as a crowd of hopefuls vied to succeed the city's three-term mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in Tuesday's election. All told, the mayoral candidates spent more than $50 million, said the city's Campaign Finance Board.

And in New Jersey, the race for governor entered its final weekend as lopsided as it had started. Gov. Chris Christie has dominated the polls throughout the campaign against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayoral nominee in New York City, and Christie have little in common other than their seemingly improbable popularity. De Blasio's Republican opponent is Joseph Lhota, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

New York voters will decide several competitive races Tuesday. In Brooklyn, District Attorney Charles Hynes is making a last-ditch bid to keep his office after losing the Democratic primary to Kenneth Thompson. And several county executive seats will also be up for grabs.

Voters also will be asked to consider a series of proposed amendments to the state's Constitution, including one that would allow certain state judges to serve until they are age 80, and another to authorize as many as seven casinos in the state.

new york times


test vote set for anti-gay bias bill

Gay rights advocates from both parties are newly upbeat about the prospects for Senate passage of legislation that would bar employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The outlook for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act reflects the nation's changing attitude about homosexuality and the GOP's political calculation as it looks for supporters beyond its core base of older voters. The first test vote is Monday.

"I think society continues to evolve on the issue of gay rights," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a co-sponsor. "As more and more gay individuals are open about their sexual orientation, people come to realize that they are their neighbors, their family members, their friends, their co-workers. That's made a big difference."

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn't stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers solely because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The bill would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions.

On Monday, all 55 members of the Senate's Democratic majority are expected to vote "yes" on the test vote, along with four Republicans — Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the co-sponsors, Illinois' Mark Kirk and Collins. The Senate could complete the bill by week's end. But it is unclear whether House Republicans will bring the bill up for a vote.

Associated Press