Earlier today, the McDonnell administration reversed former Governor Tim Kaine's discriminatory prayer policy that prohibited Virginia's State Police chaplains from praying according to their faith at public events. We greatly welcome this long-sought change back to the original, decades-old policy. The Family Foundation advocated for this policy reversal since the day it was announced by Governor Kaine and the State Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty in September 2008. The Kaine administration based its policyon a flawed understanding of a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding prayer policy in Fredericksburg. That decision determined that a discriminatory prayer policy that silences people of faith is constitutional, but the decision also clearly stated, "We need not decide whether the Establishment Clause compelled the Council to adopt their legislative prayer policy because the Establishment Clause does not absolutely dictate the form of legislative prayer."
In other words, the policy is not required. Anti-religious organizations like the ACLU continue to deceive people by arguing that so called "non-sectarian" prayer is required by the Constitution at "government meetings." That simply is not true.
We are thrilled that Governor McDonnell has fulfilled his campaign promise to restore the religious liberty rights of state police chaplains (see Roanoke Times article, vote in poll). His action reverses the discriminatory policy of the previous administration and ensures that chaplains can remain true to their faith at public events. The gags on State Police chaplains, six of whom resigned after the Kaine policy went into effect (out of 17 at the time), must now come off. (State Police chaplains are voluntary positions among active troopers; those who resigned maintained their trooper jobs.)
There was no legitimate reason for the policy change in the first place. This was an act of discrimination by the Kaine administration, plain and simple. No court anywhere requires the Kaine policy. Governor McDonnell is completely within his authority and has the constitution on his side.
The censorship of state police chaplains is yet another example of the growing anti-Christian sentiment among many in the political class in Virginia. It is evidence that more must be done to protect our right of conscience. The Family Foundation is working with several national experts on ways to further protect your religious liberty rights. We look forward to rolling out our plans in the coming months.
In the meantime, we thank Governor McDonnell for this decision. You can thank him as well by clicking here.