Monday, February 23, 2009

Virginia Legislature Again Rejects Freedom to Pray

State Senate defeats bill to restore the right of state police chaplains to pray in the name of the Deity of their religion.

-- From "Delegate’s bid to end police chaplains’ prayer rules defeated" by Mason Adams, The Roanoke Times 2/23/09

A state Senate panel voted this morning to kill a bill that would have prohibited Virginia State Police officials from restricting prayers by volunteer chaplains.

Del. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County – a retired state trooper – introduced House Bill 2314 in response to a controversy last year when Virginia State Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty issued a directive instructing the department’s chaplains not to pray in the name of Jesus at department-sanctioned events.

Six troopers subsequently resigned from the chaplaincy program because of the directive, issued in response to a 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in a case involving prayer at Fredericksburg City Council meetings.

-- From "Virginia Considers Law to Allow Police Chaplains to Say 'Jesus' While Praying" by Pete Winn, Senior Writer/Editor 2/23/09

Can a court really dictate what a minister or chaplain can pray?

“That’s the $64,000 question,” [said Chris Freund, vice president of policy and communications at The Family Foundation of Virginia.] “In our opinion, no, and I think according to the Supreme Court and most of the circuit courts of the United States, the answer is clearly no.”

Freund, meanwhile, said police chaplains are no more “speaking on behalf of the government” than chaplains who open legislative bodies or other meetings in prayer.

“There is a 1983 decision, the Marsh decision, in which there was a Nebraska chaplain who prayed, and a member of the Legislature sued, saying he didn’t like the way the chaplain was praying – “in the name of Jesus” – and that lawmaker lost,” Freund said.

“In the decision, the Supreme Court said that prayer has been part of our history in legislative bodies since the beginning – since the First Continental Congress – and it is absolutely protected speech, and it doesn’t have to be ‘non-sectarian’ or ‘non-denominational’ in that setting. You can pray any way you want to.

“What we have is a bunch of people who are trying to argue that that case doesn’t apply anymore,” Freund said. “But we disagree with that position.”

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.