"I am thankful and grateful for Speaker Bauer's spirit of bipartisanship and inclusiveness in allowing a return to thoughtful and heartfelt prayers by people of diverse faiths," said Rep. Bosma. "For more than 186 years men and women of faith have been allowed to open House sessions with their invocations of faith and hope. The free speech of all Hoosiers has been protected by returning to this honored practice."
After conversations with Rep. Bosma, House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer agreed to reinstate the session-opening prayer. Thursday's prayer was offered by the Rev. Matt Barnes of Indianapolis.
A 2005 case filed in federal district court by plaintiffs supported by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union sought to ban prayers that mentioned the name of Jesus Christ. Rep. Bosma, then speaker of the House, was named as defendant. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the first time a federal court had attempted to dictate the specific content of prayer in a state or legislative body.
During the 2006 session, prayers were offered privately by House members in the rear of the House chambers before the official start of business. During that session, the Indiana House passed a resolution supporting then-Speaker Bosma's decision to fight the lawsuit and defend the tradition of prayer at the beginning of sessions as well as the right of the General Assembly to have its practices remain free from judicial interference.
In the session before the lawsuit, the House invited a Muslim imam, a Jewish rabbi, Catholic priests and Protestant ministers to offer invocations.
On Oct. 30, 2007, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit against Rep. Bosma. In January2008, the full 15-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed the three-judge panel's decision.
"The right of the General Assembly to decide its own procedure without judicial interference and the right of men and women to share their prayers and faith with the Indiana House of Representatives has been properly restored," Rep. Bosma said. "I applaud Speaker Bauer's decision and again look forward to words of prayer being shared at the start of our sessions."