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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Council Members Are Reprimanded for Meeting on Important Jewish Holiday

• Previous Reschedulings Done to Create Three-Day Staff Holidays

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu attorney Frank Angel took on a second cause at Monday’s city council meeting when he stepped  up to the posium during the public comments segment and, saying that he was speaking on his own behalf, chastised municipal officials for holding a meeting on the first day of Passover.
“Many Malibuites cannot attend tonight because they celebrate the first day of Passover. Because they are Jewish, by holding your meeting this Monday, you force them to choose between, on the one hand, their constitutional and Brown Act rights to petition government for the redress of grievances and attend council meetings, and, on the other hand, their constitutional right to free exercise of their religion,” he told council members.
Angel said the municipal code calls for the regular meetings of the council to be held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month or if any such day is on a holiday, then the meeting scheduled on such a day should be held in the council chambers on the next succeeding day which is not a holiday.
“I find it insensitive, to say the least, to schedule a public meeting on the night of the first day of Passover when your code suggests,” the attorney added.
“I don’t mean this with any sectarian tilt. Personally, I believe the same holds true if Laylat al-Qadr, the night of power, fell on tonight,”Angel said.
The council was told the city always recognizes a half day on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, which are the only religious holidays the city respects.
“It is closed for business whenever these two days fall on a weekday? How is that? You favor Christianity over the other four major world religions, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism? Or is this endorsement imposed on you by city bureaucracy impervious to Malibu’s special cultural, intellectual and religious diversity? “Just because the majority of Malibu’s voters or residents may be Christian does not justify contempt of the First Amendment rights of the minority,” Angel said. “It would have been so easy to [to change the date].”
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who said she is the only Jewish person on the council, defended the city’s actions saying Passover is not a national holiday.
“Christmas is a national holiday. There are two nights of Passover. There was no purpose to exclude anybody. The Jewish holiday changes each year,” she said.
She concluded by saying she was not sure if a majority of Christians turned out to be the majority of voters in Malibu.
Councilmember Joan House said she had received a letter about the scheduling of the meeting on Passover.
“We missed Passover, and I explained that it would be nice if someone gave us a heads up,” she answered.
“I think we would have moved it. We have done so in the past. It slipped through the cracks,” she concluded.
No other council members commented on the Angel remarks.
At the outset of the meeting,  House, who was acting as mayor explained how few city officials were on the dais.
She said Mayor Lou La Monte could not attend the meeting because he was in Trinidad filming at night.
Councilmember John Sibert was in Mexico City and was attending the meeting by teleconferencing in a location there. He said at the outset of the meeting he was sick and did not know how long he would last.
House said City Manager Jim Thorsen was also sick, which explained his absence.
In 2012, the council meeting was changed from Monday night to Tuesday night on two separate occasions.
The regular meeting on May 28 was changed to May 29 and the November meeting on November 12 was moved to Tuesday November 13.

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