One of The Family Foundation's legislative priorities this year is a bill that would help local government bodies like boards of supervisors create constitutional prayer policies for their public meetings. Late Wednesday night, the bill, HB 1437, passed the House Courts of Justice committee. It will be voted on by the full House early next week. Please click here to contact your delegate and urge him or her to support HB 1437!
HB 1437, patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20, Staunton), does not require local government bodies to have prayer. It simply provides guidance to localities for how to craft a prayer policy based on the Greece decision and the policy the Supreme Court upheld. It also assures local governments that, should they follow these guidelines for a prayer policy, the Attorney General or his designee will defend the policy in court should a locality be sued.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Greece decision upheld the constitutionality of prayer prior to public government meetings. The Court stated, "As a practice that has long endured, legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of 'God save the United States and this honorable Court' at the opening of this Court's sessions.... That a prayer is given in the name of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or that it makes passing references to religious doctrines, does not remove it from that tradition."
Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom were the lead counsel on the Greece case, and have been assisting us in drafting and presenting this legislation.
As usual, the ACLU is arguing against the legislation. The ACLU was on the losing side of the Greece decision.