Senate Committee: Public Prayer Censored!

Monday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee killed SB 56, legislation that would have restored the right of citizens invited to pray according to the dictates of their faith at government meetings. The legislation, patroned by Senator Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield), was defeated 9-6 on a near party line vote (see committee vote). Last year, similar legislation was debated at length — in fact over two days, in the same committee. The proposal did not receive similar scrutiny this year as it was the final bill on the committee’s docket and was debated for only about 10 minutes as the meeting drew to a close. Despite evidence presented by The Family Foundation that no federal court case anywhere requires so-called "non-sectarian" prayers at government meetings, the majority of the committee chose to listen to the ACLU and other organizations that oppose the right of citizens to pray according to their conscience at public meetings. Similar legislation introduced this year in the House of Delegates was never debated in committee.