A bill that protects the free speech rights of Virginia National Guard chaplains passed a Senate committee Monday unanimously, and will be voted on by the full Senate this week. Please click here contact your Senator and urge them to support SB 690!
Patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg) SB 690 simply ensures that the religious content of sermons or religious messages 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. This year, Senator George Barker (D-39, Alexandria) carried SB 1295, which was “rolled into” SB 690. Senator Barker worked with groups that opposed the bill last year to come up with an amendment to the bill that alleviates their concerns, an amendment that we found helpful. Consequently, the bill passed committee this week unanimously.
You may remember similar legislation last year was vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, and an effort to override that veto fell just two votes short in the state Senate. This year, with bipartisan patronage and support, we are hopeful that the bill will become law.
The bill is essentially reflective of current federal policy, but state Guardsman deserve the same protections. Remarkably, some believe that a chaplain – the definition of which is someone who provides religious support – can be denied the right to talk about their religious beliefs in a sermon or religious message. Interestingly, just after the Governor vetoed similar legislation last year, in a case relating to public prayer, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said judges should not be involved in evaluating the content of prayer because it could lead to legislatures requiring “chaplains to redact the religious content from their message in order to make it acceptable for the public sphere.”
Clearly, SB 690 is needed and is constitutional.