religious liberty rights

Board Votes To Delay Adoption Regulations 30 Days, But No Change Is Expected

The Virginia Board of Social Services yesterday voted to delay the implementation of recently approved adoption regulations under the threat of costly litigation from the ACLU and Equality Virginia (see The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). In a not unexpected decision, the vote will allow for 30 days of additional comment, beginning September 12. As we noted yesterday, however, with Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli opposing the old proposed regulations on several grounds, opponents will only succeed in dragging out the process longer and perhaps set the stage for a legal action challenging Virginia law. In April, the VBSS voted 7-2 to adopt new regulations for Virginia's private adoption services. The regulations approved did not include a proposal that would have discriminated against faith-based adoption agencies by forcing them to adopt children to homosexuals. Despite having nearly two years to make their case through the regulatory process, organizations such as Equality Virginia and the ACLU claimed that the decision to not include the discriminatory language was done so without adequate information (see the AP via wral.com).

After losing the vote in April, Equality Virginia and the ACLU threatened to sue if they did not get an additional public comment period (see The Richmond Times-Dispatch). During the initial public comment time, more than 1,000 Virginians commented on the proposed regulations, with only around 30 in favor. On average, proposed regulations receive less than two dozen comments.

At yesterday's meeting, a host of representatives from the homosexual lobby spoke in favor of the additional comment period (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). Some of the speakers honestly stated that they believed allowing homosexuals to adopt should take precedence over the religious liberty rights of faith-based organizations.

When the comment period is opened we will encourage you to make your voice heard on this important issue. It is clear that homosexual groups intend to use the additional 30 days to get as much publicity as possible. We must make sure that the Board of Social Services hears from Virginians who believe in religious liberty.

Admin's notes: Family Foundation staff is quoted in every cited link in the post above. Please click those links to read further. In addition, we were cited on the National Organization For Marriage Blog (click here).

Also, Family Foundation Vice President for Policy and Communications Chris Freund was featured in coverage from WTVR/CBS6 in Richmond (immediately below) and on Charlottesville's WVIR/NBC29 (click this link)

30 days more. The homosexual lobby and ACLU couldn't wait to slow down the process. 

Original State Police Chaplain Prayer Policy Restored By Governor McDonnell

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.

Winning Matters Event August 4 Features Jonathan Falwell, Bishop Harry Jackson

The Family Foundation and Pastors For Family Values will join the Alliance Defense Fund Tuesday, August 4, to produce an outstanding event for pastors and church leaders. Even if you are a pastor who has already attended a Winning Matters 2009 briefing, or plan to attend one, we promise this is one you will regret not attending. This special pastors briefing will take place at the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. In the morning, ADF will educate pastors on their legal rights and discuss their willingness to defend those rights — ADF is one of the nation's premier legal advocates for religious liberty rights.

In the afternoon, two outstanding speakers will address attendees: Pastor Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church, who opened the House of Representatives today with prayer (see video below), and Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church (see video here). These two prominent leaders will encourage and motivate you.

Pastors also will learn about opportunities to partner with us in Winning Matters 2009 — an effort to assist Virginia churches in registering their congregations to vote, educating people of faith on important public policy issues, and encouraging them to vote in Virginia's statewide elections on November 3rd, an election that will send a message one way or another to the entire country. If you are not a pastor, please forward this link with your own personal message encouraging your church leaders to attend.

Although Pastors For Family Values is a year round association dedicated to much more than "political" involvement, we believe that appropriate occasions call us to take a more active role in making sure our voices are heard about our stance on traditional and Biblical values. This event will be informative and timely, with many resources for pastors to use in their efforts to encourage and equip their communities and churches to champion traditional values.

A Special Presentation for Pastors

Tuesday, August 4

Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center

2371 Carl D. Silver Parkway

9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Speakers: Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of Hope Christian Church

Pastor Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church

This event, including lunch, is free to pastors. To RSVP, or for more information, call 804-343-0010 or e-mail info@tffaction.org.

Pastor Jonathan Falwell, seemingly an unlikely choice, opens today's session of the U.S. House of Representatives with prayer "in Jesus' name," something Virginia state police chaplains are not allowed to do. 

Family Foundation's 2009 Legislative Agenda: Protecting Chaplains' Religious Liberty Rights

 

This past fall, as Virginians worried about the failing economy and state government announced massive revenue “shortfalls,” the Kaine administration tried to quietly introduce a new regulation that forbid state police chaplains from praying in the name of Jesus. Apparently the superintendent of the state police did this proactively, without any complaints from anyone “offended” that a chaplain had actually prayed to God.

 

Six of 17 chaplains resigned their positions as chaplains over this order. We were honored to have two of those chaplains at our Richmond Gala in November.

 

The superintendent and governor’s office alleged that the policy change is based on a recent 4th Circuit Court decision involving prayer at government meetings, specifically a case where a pastor in the Fredericksburg area was ordered to stop praying “in Jesus name” at city council meetings. The court concluded that allowing someone to publicly pray according to his beliefs at a government meeting was an "establishment of religion" because the prayer was "government speech."

 

Other circuit court rulings, however, are in direct conflict with the 4th Circuit, and many legal experts conclude that the state police decision is a misapplication of a flawed 4th Circuit Court ruling. In other words, this new policy never should have happened.

 

To remedy the Kaine administration’s decision, The Family Foundation will support legislation this year introduced by Senator Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) and Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Independence). Working with Alliance Defense Fund and its expert attorneys we believe that there is a legislative answer.

 

Next week, the 2009 General Assembly will begin. The Family Foundation is poised to bring our pro-God, pro-life, pro-family agenda to the center of the debate. We hope that you will be ready to take action when bills like this one protecting the religious liberty rights of chaplains are debated.

HHS: New Regs Protect Medical Workers

The United States Department of Health and Human Services last week announced new regulations that protect the right of conscience of pro-life medical professionals (see Washington Post, here). The Family Foundation and the Virginia Catholic Conference urged you to send public comments to HHS this past fall in support of these new rules. Your work, and that of thousands of others, paid off. The new regulations establish needed clarification and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that medical personnel are not coerced into participating in procedures, such as abortions, that violate their moral, ethical and religious convictions.

Tony Perkins, President of The Family Research Council said:

This is a huge victory for religious freedom and the First Amendment. No one should be forced to have an abortion, and no one should be forced to be an abortionist. These regulations will ensure that conscience protection statutes will be strongly enforced by the government just as other civil rights laws are.  It's also a victory for the right of patients to choose doctors who agree with their personal beliefs.

Pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, already are urging the incoming Obama administration to reverse the regulations. 

For several years The Family Foundation has worked to extend Virginia's current conscience clause protection to pharmacists who are often forced, against their beliefs, to distribute abortifacient chemical drugs like the so-called emergency contraceptive "Plan-B." Planned Parenthood sees this issue as a major threat to their financial well-being. Remember, for several years, the federal government provided financial supplements to Planned Parenthood's purchase of Plan-B.

At a time when religious liberty rights are under constant threat and are gradually being removed, this is a tremendous victory for the right of conscience. Despite the cries of radical pro-abortion groups, these new regulations will in no way threaten or diminish real health care. They will simply provide protections for people whose religious convictions forbid them from participating in abortion related services.