McAuliffe Bows to ACLU, Censors Chaplains

National Guard

Bowing yet again to last-minute, unrealistic demands from the ACLU, last night, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed Senator Dick Black's (R-13, Leesburg) bill to protect the free speech rights of National Guard chaplains.

The Governor doesn't have to have the last word on this.  Contact your legislators today and ask them to protect religious liberty and override the Governor's veto of SB 555.

SB 555 simply ensures that the religious content of sermons by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard or the Virginia Defense Force can't be censored or restricted by any state government official or agency.  Due to the fact that it essentially repeats federal policy on this issue, the Senate passed SB 555 unanimously and the House voted to pass it 69-29.  Bills that pass unanimously out of the Senate are few and far between, so it's hard to understand why the Governor would feel the need to veto such a commonsense, uncontroversial bill.

But entering late upon the scene … the ACLU.  Again a latecomer to the party (similar to their last-minute attempt to destroy a genetic counselor conscience clause a few weeks prior), the ACLU complained to Governor McAuliffe that this bill was in violation of the separation of church and state.  And yet again, the Governor, denying good sense and the General Assembly's voting record, acquiesced to the ACLU's wishes.

In his letter explaining his veto, Governor McAuliffe unbelievably states that his veto is to protect religious liberty.  Caring not a bit about the religious liberty of the person delivering the sermon, McAuliffe states that guardsmen hearing the sermon might be offended and thus the bill should be vetoed.  McAuliffe further states that a chaplain's right to “religious expression in [] private” is sufficient and thus their public speech can be pre-determined, restricted, and censored.  It's amazing how seemingly only liberals can get away with denying religious liberty with the rationale that they're protecting religious liberty.

Speaking to the Governor's veto, champion of religious liberty, Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax) told reporter Julian Walker of The Virginian-Pilot that McAuliffe is standing “against any bills protecting individuals' rights to conscience” and says that McAuliffe owes Virginians a reason as to why he believes the government should determine “what they say and what they believe.”

Given SB 555's unanimous passage in the Senate and it's over-two-thirds passage in the House, The Family Foundation is hopeful that legislators will put aside the ACLU's bogus claims and vote as they did previously to protect religious liberty.  The General Assembly will vote on the Governor's veto on April 23rd and a two-thirds majority is required to override a veto.  Contact your legislators now and ask them to protect religious liberty and override the Governor's veto of SB 555.