Hanover

Thanksgiving Meditation And Prayer

Delegate Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover) today sent out this very well stated and  contemplative Thanksgiving thought and prayer. We couldn't have said it better ourselves:

While President George Washington declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, Thanksgiving has been an American tradition officially celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November annually since 1863. Our federal holiday was not formalized until 1941. As Virginians we can take great pride in the fact that our ancestors arrived on the banks of the James River at what is now Berkeley Plantation in 1619 and gave the first thanks to God for His provisions.

Thanksgiving Day Prayer For Your Family:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we beseech thee, faithful stewards of thy great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

From the entire family at The Family Foundation of Virginia — Board, volunteers and staff — extend to you and your loved ones the very best wishes for a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Chaplain Religious Freedom Bill Dies in Senate Courts

This morning the Senate Courts of Justice Committee defeated HB 2314 patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax). This bill would have restored to the Commonwealth's State Trooper chaplains the religious liberty right to pray according to the dictates of their conscience. This restoration of freedom is necessary after State Police Superintendent Stephen Flaherty issued an administrative order that chaplains can no longer pray "in the name of Jesus." This decision has been strongly supported by Governor Kaine's administration despite the pursuant resignations of six chaplains.  In a long and very contentious meeting, HB 2314 was the final bill to be heard. Testimony was offered on both sides. (Video of the debate will be available here tomorrow.) Joining The Family Foundation in speaking in support of the bill was the state Solicitor General Steve McCullough, the Rev. Sherylann Bragton of City of Love Ministries and Dr. Jack Knapp of the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists. In opposition to the bill were the ACLU, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Interfaith Center for Public Policy and a Jewish police chaplain from northern Virginia.  

Opponents used their typical arguments, such as stating that in order to minister to all people one must strip any religious references out of their prayers. The police chaplain stated, "When I don my police uniform I am no longer representing my congregation as a Jewish clergy. Instead I am representing the government." 

While he may choose to leave his particular faith at the door when he ministers to others, to have the state require that one minister in this way is not acceptable. Delegate Carrico continued to remind the committee that the state police policy of censorship was issued not as the result of a single complaint of proselytizing but instead out of an ideological agenda.

Leading the charge to defeat the bill was Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg). Instead of outright voting against the bill, Senator Norment chose to do something even more detrimental to the effort being waged by those who seek to uphold First Amendment freedoms — he offered amendments accepted by a majority of the committee in which he inserted "nonsectarian" before each mention of prayer in the bill. As Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) pointed out to the committee and myriad of reporters following this hearing, a plain reading of this new language indicated that the amended bill would enshrine the state superintendent's policy into perpetuity. It was an amendment intended to kill the entire purpose of the bill.

Even after the killer amendment was accepted, the bill died by a majority vote. If you are interested to know where people really stood on this bill, those who voted against the Norment amendment actually support the religious liberty rights upon which this nation was founded: Senators Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), Ryan McDougle (R-4, Hanover), Robert Hurt (R-19, Chatham) and Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville). 

Despite the testimony of opponents to this legislation the facts are clear — neither the Constitution nor the Courts of the United States require or compel a faithless, non-religious, nonsectarian prayer at government events. Sadly, as is often the case for some members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, the facts and the law are but a distasteful distraction. 

Unfortunately, for six state police chaplains, this decision renders meaningless the protection of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which states:

"That all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

Quote Of The Day

Just a few minutes ago, on the House floor, Delegate Frank Hargrove (R-55, Hanover), on the debate on making the Eastern Box Turtle the state reptile, whose Latin species and sub-species name both include "Terrapene (Terrapin) Carolina," and which is the state reptile for North Carolina:

"Why would we make one of these things our state reptile when at the first sign of trouble it shrinks back into its shell — and we run over them on our roads all the time anyway!"

And later, from Delegate Steve Shannon (D-35, Fairfax), sensing growing resistance for the bill from the ribbing his colleagues couldn't resist giving him:

"I will remind the body that this is a Senate bill. ... Yesterday Delegate Bulova carried it. Today I drew the short straw."

The bill failed 28-69.