state police

Virginia News Stand: May 10, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations And They Say Nothing Happens On Monday

Virginia news is pretty slack today, but we are mentioned yet again in the media, this time by Washington Jewish Week, about the state police chaplain prayer policy. People can't seem to stop writing about us. It's because we are making an impact and — to the shock of a startled elite — social conservatism is not out of favor with Americans.

Except for those here watching over the impending European implosion, the major news nationally deals with a Supreme Court nominee and one who will vote to confirm her. President Barack Obama selected Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill the spot of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Meanwhile, one who will vote to confirm her, U.S. Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah), didn't even qualify for his party's primary ballot, the first Tea Party scalp this year. Infiltrating a Republican nomination process may sound predictable, and cheered by liberals who think GOP divisions may stave their pending November doom, but you may be surprised at the next incumbent Tea Party scalp in the queue: Democrat Representative Allan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), a senior appropriator, who has a primary challenge from a state senator gaining traction because of Rep. Mollohan's pork barrelling ear marks and questionable ethics. 

Finally, the health care law has come up short. Already. Again! According to the AP, that guaranteed "kid" coverage (up to age 26!) has run into a snag. Government efficiency and liberal utopia at its best.

News

*Virginia prayer reversal blasted (Washington Jewish Week)

Police chaplains wary of Va. program (Washington Post)

Effort to shrink Virginia government isn't new (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell reform commission chairman pick sparks protest (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

1st District GOP candidate: Lawmakers guilty of treason (Woodbridge/Manassas News & Messenger)

McDonnell backs O'Brien in Northern Virginia Senate primary (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Saxman now a lobbyist (Staunton News Leader)

National News

Obama Nominates Kagan to Seat on Supreme Court (Wall Street Journal)

Conservatives Note Kagan’s Anti-Military Views, Lack of Judicial Experience (CNSNews.com)

Federal Reserve opens credit line to Europe (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Premiums may undermine coverage guarantee for kids (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Anti-incumbent mood challenge to veteran Democrat (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Conservatives focus on KY following Bennett defeat in Utah (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Analysis

Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan (Ed Whelan/National Review's The Corner Blog)

The Great Disentangling Has Begun: What Bob Bennett’s Defeat Means and Does Not (Erick Erickson/RedState.com)

Commentary

Will America Follow Greece? (Star Parker/GOPUSA.com)

Arizona Law Also Happens To Be Good Politics (Debra Saunders/GOPUSA.com)

Threat Assessment

Yet another government agency, this time the Virginia State Police, has issued a terrorism assessment report that includes concerns over Christian conservatives. You remember that earlier this month the U.S. Department of Secret Police Homeland Security issued a report to law enforcement agencies across the country warning them about the threat of military veterans, pro-lifers, etc. Now, we have a report right here in the old Commonwealth, you know that place that was started by "anti-government types," that alleges Christian colleges, along with predominantly black universities, as potential hotbeds of terrorism. The Va. State Police report has even raised the ire of Governor Kaine, protector of free speech (as long as it doesn't include publicly saying the name of Jesus, of course). He issued a statement criticizing the report and has ordered an investigation of the investigation.

Now, the left will have you believe that all us pro-life graduates of Christian colleges are simply being paranoid. But what's the old saying? It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

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."

In Jesus Name . . . NOT

Earlier this General Assembly session, the Senate Courts of Justice committee defeated legislation by Senator Steve Martin that would have protected the religious liberty and free speech rights of Virginia citizens asked to pray before government meetings. The bill, SB 1072, was a response to both the Fourth Circuit Court's Turner decision, and the state police's decision to censor prayers by its chaplains.  Opponents, such as the ACLU, lined up to ensure that our religious liberty and free speech rights were trampled. Once again opponents completely misrepresented the facts and misused the law — big surprise. 

On the side of religious liberty were the Alliance Defense Fund's senior counsel Mike Johnson and the Soliciter General of the Commonwealth Steve McCullough. Despite their clear and honest presentation of the facts, the committee killed the bill. 

Take a look for yourself at some of the testimony and questioning:

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.

Ekaineomics: The Poor, The Starving . . . The Government

Jesus said the poor will always be with us. That's not good news for those who think the size of government is huge and would like to see much of it go away, because state government now considers itself among the poor. So says Governor Tim Kaine. According to his excellency, higher gas prices are causing people to buy less gas which means . . . (drum roll, please) . . . less gas tax revenue! But wait: Don't liberals want us to use less gas so we won't pollute and melt the polar ice caps? What are they going to do when we move to hydrogen powered cars? There will be no gas left to tax! Poor liberals.

Aside from that inconsistency, we hope Governor Kaine learns from this some basic economics: The more expensive a good or service, the less of it is purchased. So adding taxes to the plethora of items outlined in his recent tax scheme will make those items more expensive. How does he see this as good for Virginia?

Now, more ekaineomics: He recently told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that the meat of state government was down to the bone:

"Obviously, we've been through two rounds of expense tightening," the governor said. "One in November, where I reduced the state budget by $300 million cutting expenses. And then in February I had to do a $1.4 billion reduction in the prospective two-year budget," he added.

"Obviously"? Who would have known, what with a budget of $78 billion, more than twice what it was 10 years ago, with new programs launched just this year, such as an expansion of a Pre-K program for which there was no demand. He gets around to admitting his "cuts" were really scale-backs of proposed increases, not actual reductions in programs, although he couched them as cuts.

Without doubt, higher gas prices have increased the cost of government, especially for necessary services such as state police and school bus transportation, as well as for operating state buildings — offices, prisons and colleges, for example.

"But we also have a revenue effect," said Kaine. "As gas prices go up, people drive fewer miles, and that reduces revenues to the state's transportation fund."

Kaine said he saw a recent statistic that showed Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles in the month of March than they did during March of last year. "So what we will see is increasing costs everywhere in state government and fewer transportation dollars," he added.

But it's not only the state. Localities are claiming the poor house blues, too. Several counties have refused to lower their real estate taxes, meaning higher revenues as the old rates are applied to properties with ever increasing assessments. In Richmond, Councilman Marty Jewell, Mayor Doug Wilder's one reliable ally, was the dissenter in an 8-1 vote to reduce the property tax by 3 cents to $1.20 of assessed value, from the current $1.23. (It should have rolled back to $1.18 to remain revenue neutral.) Despite campaign promises, the mayor was opposed to any tax reductions. According to the Times-Dispatch, Jewell, echoing the mayor, said it was too large a cut given the struggling economy because the city needs the money.

So the city and state need the money? What about the hard-working Virginians supplying the money?

But in the face of all this government poorness, some agencies are living large. As Robin Beres of the T-D discovered, two of Virginia's largest universities spent nearly $3 million in catering services just in the first three quarters of the 2008 fiscal year. (Read the article here, but note a typo: she means billions, not millions, in her state budget totals). In Fiscal Year 2007, various institutes of higher learning in the Commonwealth spent $250,000 alone at Richmond's grand hotel, The Jefferson. One college spent $30,000 at the Country Club of Virginia.

But that's just the fun stuff she found. It's well documented that the budget has grown from $15.5 billion in 1998 to $39 billion in the second year of Governor Kaine's two-year budget. But why? One reason she cites is payroll. U.S. Census statistics show Virginia as the 12 largest state with 7.7 million residents. North Carolina, the 10th largest state, has more than 9 million. However, Virginia has 122,000 full-time government employees to North Carolina's 93,000. Yet, we hear from the administration that Virginia government is strapped and we have to raise taxes. Wonder why.

Plainly put: If transportation, or any function government deems necessary, is in crisis, those in charge need to prioritize. Crisis situations get put to the top. Crises are solved with what you have at that moment because crises don't wait; by definition, if it could, it's not a crisis. So if Governor Kaine, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) and the other liberals are sincere about solving the transportation crisis, they would stop trying to score political points, prioritize spending and cut just a little more than 1 percent of the $78 billion in the current two year budget and put that toward transportation (i.e., re-appropriate the last $1 billion in the budget).

It is disingenuous to say a budget that large cannot be cut. Not everything the government spends on is a priority, to say the least. Let there be no mistake: Funds are not lacking in Virginia. Perhaps truthfulness and leadership are.