thomas jefferson

Does Religious Freedom Matter Anymore?

On this date in 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted one of the most important initiatives in our nation's history — the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom. Today, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation celebrating the Statute and Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) and Delegate Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover) gave speeches in their respective chambers to bring attention to this day. This amendment to our state constitution was the foundation for our First Freedom as defined in the U.S. Constitution a few years later. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson — it is one of the three accomplishments for which he wanted to be remembered and engraved on his tombstone; the others being author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the University of Virginia — the Statute recognizes that our right to exercise our faith

. . . can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.

It adds:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

As attacks on the religious liberty of Americans continue to grow, it is important to remember the real meaning of the term and take the opportunity to educate our friends and neighbors who may be buying into some of the secular left’s notion of "separation of church and state." For example, we often call our First Freedom a "constitutional right to religious freedom," but the reality is that this freedom comes from God and is simply to be protected by the constitution; it doesn't come from our constitution.

It is important to note that we have the freedom to be involved in "civil capacities" and express our "opinions in matters of religion" in these capacities. This is particularly important to remember as the radical secular left in Virginia has attacked us for our support of pro-life and pro-family legislation as a violation of "separation," something that flies in the face not just of the Statute but over 230 years of American history. This is not only our right, it's our duty.

This year, we are supporting initiatives that we hope will restore the real meaning of Jefferson's Statute. One, an amendment to the state constitution by Senator Stanley — working with Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax) — would seek to reestablish our rights as citizens to pray at public government meetings, a longstanding tradition that the secular left has sought to stop, successfully in many cases, throughout Virginia.

Of course, one major threat to the freedom of all Americans is the federal government's mandate that citizens fund the birth control of others through President Obama's health insurance scheme, a mandate that is currently being challenged in nearly 30 lawsuits across the nation. While the secular left and abortion industry call this mandate about "access" to birth control, the truth is that it requires a redefinition of the word "access" to mean "paid for by somebody else at the expense of their freedom of conscience."

Governor McDonnell And First Lady Put "Easter" Back In Egg Hunt

On Wednesday, I noted how the City of Richmond, whose mayor, Dwight Jones, is a pastor, by the way, is doing its part to "rebrand" the Easter season into another generic secular happenstance by sponsoring more than a dozen "egg hunts" on "Monday, April 9" — known the world over as Easter Monday except to all but those in the city's Department of Recreation, Parks and Community Facilities. Thankfully, there's someone in the city who knows what the season is about. On Wednesday evening, April 4, from 5:00-7:00 in Capitol Square.Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell will host the the first annual "Governor's Easter Egg Hunt." The event is free and open to the public and will include several activities, including music, face painting, eggs with great prizes and appearances by several mascots and a Thomas Jefferson re-enactor. Sounds like good family fun. Though free, reservations are required. Click here to make them. For more information about the event, click here.

Governor and Mrs. McDonnell are not afraid to call it what it is, despite how some cultural elites are trying to whitewash Easter as they have tried to do with Christmas.

It's important for people, especially the young, to recognize why it is we celebrate what we do. For the City of Richmond to play its part and take sides in an attempt to whitewash the meaning of this time of year is inexcusable. No one is asking the city to offer a sermon, lead a prayer or hand out Bibles, but simply to leave in the name of the reason and the tradition of the event it is sponsoring — and not pretend Easter never happened or was celebrated the day before.  I, for one, am happy Governor and Mrs. McDonnell are not afraid of the culture vultures who would devour all references to our Judeo-Christian culture and recognize it is not government's role to whitewash history and faith. While I am sure it is not in any way a response to the city's events, I am sure the Capitol's event will be much more fun and better attended.

Property Rights Debate Re-Scheduled For Senate Sub-Committee Tuesday Morning!

Last week we wrote a post on urgent action needed on an important piece of legislation: SJ 307, a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution to protect property rights from excessive eminent domain and provide just compensation to landowners when a public taking truly is necessary. The patron of the resolution, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), subsequent to the post, asked the sub-committee to carry it over to this Tuesday morning — and we desperately need you to contact your members of the sub-committee, and urge them to vote for the resolution (click here for sub-committee members)!

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its deplorable Kelo decision several years ago — it said while the federal courts could not protect property owners from local and state governments — it basically invited states to enact their own protections. Most did. Why are Virginians still waiting for their legislature to act?

Right now, lobbyists for local governments — who use your hard-earned tax dollars to work against your rights at the General Assembly — and large utilities and telecoms are working behind the scenes with their considerable resources, to strengthen their hand for your property. No less than 10 government and corporate groups are lined up against this amendment, while The Family Foundation (see our Constitutional Government paper), The Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council are among the few working for the many — that is, the people.

Without property rights, we don’t have secure homes. Without property rights, we don’t have the security to practice our faith. Without property rights, we have no economic security. Local and state government have eyes bigger than their stomachs for homes, farms and small businesses to feed their economic development schemes. They’ve taken private property and turned it over to developers and corporations for malls and office parks, or for transportation boondoggles. In one heinous case in Hampton, the city took private property for a pittance, and then sold it to a developer for millions while the original owner saw none of the extra money.

At one time, Virginia was a leader in protecting property rights and our Founders, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, ensured these rights in the Commonwealth’s constitution. However, in the last constitutional revision in the early 1970s, they were diminished. But now, with a reawakening of Founding Principles across Virginia and the nation, there is real momentum this year for true reform.

While Big Government and Big Corporations have much money, we have many voices – and they matter! You are a force equalizer. Please contact these senator and express your desire to see Virginia protect your property rights — your homes, farms and businesses!

Property Rights In The Balance Friday Morning In House Of Delegates!

With housekeeping measures and session-opening pomp behind them, Virginia’s lawmakers now are at full pace in the "short session" of the General Assembly and there is no time to lose on a paramount issue that affects our freedoms — the protection of private property. On Friday morning, the House Privileges and Elections Committee (click here for members and contact links) will consider a constitutional amendment that will safeguard your property rights from state and local government and corporations, as well as ensure just compensation in circumstances when land must be taken for legitimate public uses. Earlier this week, a "P&E" sub-committee barely reported out, on a 3-2 vote (see vote), HJ 647, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville). Now it goes to the full committee with local government interests, who use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights, and large utilities and telecoms working behind the scenes with every resource at their disposal to strengthen their hand when they want your property. No less than 10 government and corporations testified against the resolution in sub-committee, while The Family Foundation, The Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council speaking in favor. (A similar version in the Senate yesterday was carried over for a week.)

Without property rights, we don’t have secure homes. Without property rights, we don’t have the security to practice our faith. Without property rights, we have no economic security. The fact is, ever since the deplorable Kelo decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, local and state governments have had eyes bigger than their stomachs for homes, farms and small businesses to feed their economic development schemes. They’ve taken private property and turned it over to developers and corporations for malls and office parks, or for transportation boondoggles. In one heinous case in Hampton, the city took private property for a pittance, and then sold it to a developer for millions while the original owner saw none of the extra money.

At one time, Virginia was a leader in protecting property rights and our Founders, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, ensured these rights in the Commonwealth’s constitution. However, in the last constitutional revision in the early 1970s, they were diminished. But now, with a reawakening of Founding Principles across Virginia and the nation, there is real momentum this year for true reform.

While Big Government and Big Corporations have much money, we have many voices — and they matter! They are a force equalizer. Please contact members of the committee and express your desire to see Virginia protect families’ homes, farms and businesses!

Big Property Rights Vote Tuesday Morning In Senate Sub-Committee!

After a slow first few days of ceremony and housekeeping, the 2011 General Assembly session moves into a very high gear with several crucial issues before sub-committees. We need you to act immediately on an issue that is the foundation of all of our liberties: Property Rights. Tomorrow at 9:15 a.m., the Senate Privileges and Elections Sub-Committee on Constitutional Amendments will consider SJR 307, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg). This proposed amendment will enshrine in the state constitution the landmark property protection legislation passed in 2007, but which has come under assault in each successive General Assembly.

Without property rights, we don't have secure homes. Without property rights, we don't have the security to practice our faith. Without property rights, we have no economic security. The fact is, ever since the deplorable Kelo decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, local and state governments have had eyes bigger than their stomachs for homes, farms and small businesses to feed their economic development schemes. They've taken private property and turned it over to developers and corporations for malls and office parks, or for transportation boondoggles. In one heinous case in Hampton, the city took private property for a pittance, and then sold it to a developer for millions while the original owner saw none of the extra money.

At one time, Virginia was a leader in protecting property rights and our Founders, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, ensured these rights in the Commonwealth’s constitution. However, in the last constitutional revision in the early 1970s, they were diminished. But now, with a reawakening of Founding Principles across Virginia and the nation, there is real momentum this year for true reform. We also think we are close in the sub-committee — so your voice matters! Please contact sub-sommittee members and express your desire that they vote for S.J.R. 307 to protect Virginia families' homes, farms and businesses!

Funeral For The U.S. Constitution

One of the lighter moments of the Virginia TEA Party Convention last weekend was Friday morning, when a group promoting a new 25-minute documentary by the National Republican Trust, a political action committee not affiliated with the Republican Party, staged a "funeral" for the U.S. Constitution and "Integrity." A re-enactor portraying Thomas Jefferson led a solemn processions inside the Greater Richmond Convention Center as well as on downtown Richmond streets, slowly ringing a bell, before stopping and eulogizing the late founding document and the integrity with which our representatives used to govern. It was well received by the TEA Partiers, many of whom stood and applauded at first sighting of the coffins, fully understanding the point before the speech. A flurry of photographers — media and spectators — snapped away. One gentleman even placed his hat over his heart! It was an early event at the convention — before it had even started — and an unofficial one at that, but the reactions of the crowd were telling. Far from an angry mob as the mainstream media portrays them, these are every day citizens with a deep love of country and, perhaps, a deeper concern for its current direction.

Is the Constitution dead? Or just sleeping, like Lazarus, waiting for a "great awakening" November 2?

The American Mind Remains Grounded In 18th Century Calls For Liberty

Our friends at the Sam Adams Alliance produce a worthwhile podcast called Engaging Democracy. Its most recent episode is of particular interest during this season of celebration of America's founding in independence and liberty: Too often we think of our separation from Great Britain as an instigation of a few great men. Not so. Rather, as Thomas Jefferson said he tried to convey in the Declaration of Independence, it was a reflection of the American mind — a growing call of people from all walks of life who were expressing themselves in local resolutions calling for independence and the manifestation of their God given natural right to liberty. In the "You Never Know Where A Conservative Will Pop Up" category, host Eric O'Keefe interviews MIT historian Pauline Maier, often seen on The History Channel, and author of American Scripture, for her take on how the Declaration was influenced by an increasingly popular sentiment throughout the colonies. 

While July may evoke thoughts of and provoke interest in our founding history, our liberty remains under attack by those who viciously ram at us bigger and more monstrous governmental control. Today is similar to then. The admonition by our Founders after independence to vigilantly preserve our liberty has become a vigilance to return to our liberty. That makes this 7-minute podcast worth the listen.

Click here to listen to Engaging Democracy: Getting the Founding Right featuring Pauline Maier

Family Foundation Files Brief In National Day Of Prayer Case

The Family Foundation today signed onto an amicus brief (see brief) by Liberty Institute filed in the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the National Day of Prayer in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Obama (see news release). Those represented in the brief in addition to The Family Foundation include Dr. James Dobson, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family Action (CitizenLink), the American Civil Rights Union, Let Freedom Ring, and Liberty Counsel, as well as 27 other state family policy councils. On April 15, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the federal government's observation of prayer is unconstitutional (see Christian Post), despite numerous rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that protect long-standing traditions of religious invocations. Today's brief argues that not only is the National Day of Prayer constitutional, but that Judge Crabb's ruling establishes active hostility to religion and must be reversed.

When Congress passed a statute in 1952 calling for the president to issue a proclamation designating the National Day of Prayer, it memorialized the virtually unbroken tradition of presidents from Washington to Truman, each of whom designated a day of prayer.

In May, The Family Foundation also joined an amicus brief in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in another important religious liberty case, Joyner v. Forsyth County (N.C.). The details of this case date back to March of 2007 when the American Civil Liberty Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against North Carolina's Forsyth County Board of Supervisors stating:

[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.

It is clear that attacks on our first freedom, the right of conscience, seem to be coming every day. The National Day of Prayer has been recognized by presidents of both parties and by Congress for decades and prayer has been part of our national character since its founding. It is appalling that a single judge can undermine that longstanding tradition but, unfortunately, the courts have a mixed record at best on protecting our First Amendment rights.

The Family Foundation has been, and always will be, a voice for religious freedom in our commonwealth. The words of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom — that are the foundation for the tradition of religious liberty in our nation and the precursor to the First Amendment — must be preserved and protected. That is a legacy that we have inherited and we must defend.

Speaking Of Earmarks, Goodlatte To Offer Moratorium Resolution This Week

Speaking of earmarks and Congressional attempts to ban them, at least for a year, I just received this from Fourth District U.S. Representative Randy Forbes (R-Va.): It's a resolution that Sixth District Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will introduce this week to ban earmarks in the House. Now that both the Republican and Democrat caucuses in that chamber are on record as wanting to end the pork practice, we'll see who is serious about truly ending it.

RESOLUTION

Expressing the sense of Congress that House Democrats should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year, that total discretionary spending should be reduced by the amount saved by earmark moratoriums and that a bipartisan, bicameral committee should be created to review and overhaul the budgetary, spending and earmark processes.

WHEREAS families all across our nation must make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford;

WHEREAS government officials should be required to exercise an even higher standard when spending taxpayers’ hard-earned income;

WHEREAS Thomas Jefferson once wrote: "To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude;

WHEREAS our national debt is at its highest rate ever;

WHEREAS the federal budget deficit is projected to exceed $1 trillion for the next two fiscal years and hover around $800 billion annually for the foreseeable future;

WHEREAS current levels of spending are simply unsustainable;

WHEREAS it is time for Congress to wake up and see that the federal deficits and the national debt have reached crisis status;

WHEREAS Congress must control spending, paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, rather than allow big spenders to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits and in doing so leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not their own;

WHEREAS House Republicans have adopted a one year total moratorium on all Congressional earmarks: Now therefore be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that —

(1) The entire membership of the House should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year;

(2) Discretionary spending should be reduced in the FY 2011 Budget by the total amount that was spent on requests for earmarks in FY 2010;

(3) In the event that spending in the FY 2011 Budget is not so reduced by the amount spent for earmarks in FY 2010, an amendment to the budget resolution to effectuate this change must be made in order; and

(4) A complete review and overhaul of the Congressional budgetary, spending and earmark processes should be commenced by creating a bi-partisan, bicameral committee to study the issue and report back with recommendations.

Patrick Henry "Liberty Or Death" Speech Reenactment For Family Foundation Supporters In Richmond For Inaugural

In conjunction with this Saturday's Inaugural activities in Richmond, The Family Foundation has commissioned a private reenactment of Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Give Me Death" speech after the swearing-in ceremonies. The performance, by professional actors, who do a weekly performance to packed houses during the summer, will take place at historic Saint John's Church, where Henry made the revolutionary oration. Saint John's is located at 2401 East Broad Street, less than a mile from Capitol Square. The reenactment begins at 3:30 p.m. The actors, complete in 1770s attire, portray several prominent delegates at the March 23, 1775, Second Virginia Convention, including Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, in addition to the participation of audience members who are encouraged to participate as delegates themselves. The reenactment of the Second Virginia Convention is a historically accurate representation of the event. It portrays the democratic process through passions of the revolutionary era and the animated debates that culminated in Henry's clarion call for the breaking of the chains which bound Virginia to Great Britain (see short video). This production is a Virginia treasure, one that puts visitors back in time, and overwhelms them in a unique patriotic experience difficult replicate anywhere else.

This reenactment, exclusively for supporters and friends of The Family Foundation, has limited seating and a RSVP is required by this Friday. To reserve a seat, please call Marie Edwards at (804) 343-0010 or e-mail her at marie@familyfoundation.org.

For the convenience of individuals attending the swearing-in ceremony and other inaugural events, a bus will provide transportation to and from Saint John's Church. It will leave the northwest corner of 9th and East Main Streets, in front of the One Capitol Square Building in which TFF's offices are located, 2:45 p.m. The bus will return to the same location at the conclusion of the reenactment, at approximately 4:30 p.m.

Those who want to drive directly to Saint John's Church should arrive by 3:20 p.m. and enter the property by the main gate on East Broad Street. An elevator is available for handicapped individuals on the 24th Street entrance.

For information about attending the swearing-in ceremony, which is free and open to the public, complete details are available at mcdonnellinaugural.com.

patriots

You are there! Patriot reenactors Washington, Jefferson and Henry.

Robo Kaine Desperate To Salvage Shannon

The DNC Chairman, Governor Tim Kaine (contact here) sounded off last night in the attorney general's campaign. Literally. He voiced a "robo call" on behalf of Democrat AG candidate Steve Shannon. Unfortunately, he really didn't have much to say about Delegate Shannon's qualifications. Instead, he launched into a vicious attack on Republican attorney general candidate Ken Cuccinelli, using a Washington Post editorial as cover for calling him "bigoted" (see Norm's Leahy's first-hand account at Tertium Quids). I, myself, got a call from an African-American friend immediately after he received the call. He reasoned the calls were going into African-American neighborhoods to pump the fear of Satan into otherwise disinterested black voters. But they also went into upper income, socially conscious (i.e., "moderate") white neighborhoods, too, the areas that the GOP seems to be gaining back this campaign. Which makes sense: with a double digit lead, the only way to defeat Senator Cuccinelli is to expand the voter universe and flip some votes (or get them to skip the AG ballot).

What is interesting is why the DNC chairman and his hacks think they can pick off Senator Cuccinelli. In the SurveyUSA poll, out today, he has the largest lead of the three (20 points!) — and even the Democrat Public Policy Poll says he leads in all regions of the commonwealth, including the liberal bastion of Northern Virginia. (How can that be?) The answer? Trashing the constitution and our founding principles. By parodying Senator Cuccinelli's principled stands and record of adhering strictly to the constitution, liberals think they can caricature him into something abominable because adhering to Life and Liberty aren't nearly so important as doling out government-style happiness.

No matter whether one interprets "bigotry" to be the racial kind or the "intolerant of other lifestyles" kind (the call left that open to your interpretation), it's interesting to note that it was Senator Cuccinelli who accepted, attended, spoke and stayed late to meet people at the Virginia NAACP's recent forum and Delegate Shannon who accepted — but stood them up. It's also strange that Governor Kaine thought highly enough of Senator Cuccinelli to work with him on this summer's special session to remedy the impact on Virginia from the U.S. Supreme Court's Melendez-Diaz decision. (You remember . . .the session Shannon called a "political stunt.")

Even stranger is Delegate Shannon's previous dinner engagements at the home of Senator Cuccinelli. Guess he was an okay guy before he went up double digits, huh? 

Ever since he took the DNC job, Governor Kaine has not been able to decide whether he is governor or desperate partisan in chief. His level of campaigning is beneath the dignity of the office Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson once occupied.

"These United Colonies Are, And Of Right Ought To Be, Free And Independent States"

Today is the day that John Adams wrote would be our national day. For good reason. Today was the day in 1776 that the Continental Congress passed a certain Virginian's resolution declaring independence from Great Britain. Not Thomas Jefferson. Richard Henry Lee. This resolution broke the bonds with the mother country. It was incorporated into the document that stated the reasons for our revolutionary break and our principles upon which the new country would stand — the Declaration of Independence.

The Lee Resolution said:

That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent states; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

The Declaration, including this phrase, was adopted later, and not made official until signed by Congress' president, John Hancock, on July 4. Many of the Signers did not affix their names until August, and others still later.

Today, as well as the 4th, is a time for reflection on this country — its past and the blood spilled and toil given to create and preserve it — and prayer in thanksgiving for the greatness that it has become and for those who have guaranteed it through their sacrifice, as well as for its future. It's a time to think about the meaning of our country's founding and its founding principles. For us Virginians, it's also a time of pride and reflection on our Commonwealth's great contributions to the creation of this blessed country and all those since — and that continue today — that have so enriched America. 

On behalf of The Family Foundation of Virginia, we wish everyone a safe, fun and patriotic Independence Day Weekend. 

Statement Of Delegate Bob Marshall On The 4th Circuit's Upholding Of Virginia's Partial Birth Abortion Ban

STATEMENT OF DELEGATE BOB MARSHALL, PATRON OF HB 1541, DURING THE 2003 SESSION OF THE VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The most fundamental purpose of government is to protect human lives. The court did that here.

It is telling that it was Virginia's Thomas Jefferson, who criticized abortion in his Notes on Virginia, and who affirmed in the Declaration of Independence that the first natural right of persons is the right to life which comes directly from God, when he wrote that, "all men are created equal," and that Jefferson didn't say all men are born equal for a reason.

I wanted a law that upheld the right to life of children near birth, would expand the legal protections previously denied such children by other federal court decisions, and which would be constitutional.

Delegate Marshall concluded his statement by quoting from the concurring opinion of Judge J. Harvie Wilkerson:

The fact is that we — civilized people — are retreating to the haven of our Constitution to justify dismembering a partly born child and crushing its skull. Surely centuries hence, people will look back on this gruesome practice done in the name of fundamental law by a society of high achievement. And they will shudder.

Official Statement Of The Family Foundation On State Police Chaplain Prayer Policy

Statement of Victoria Cobb

President, The Family Foundation of Virginia

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia 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." [Emphasis added]

Today, thanks to the action of the Virginia State Police Superintendent and its endorsement by Governor Tim Kaine, Thomas Jefferson's words are little more than ink on paper. The words of the Statute for Religious Freedom that is the foundation for the tradition of religious liberty in our nation and the precursor to the First Amendment rings hollow in the ears of those state police chaplains who have had their opinions in matters of religion diminished and their civil capacities affected simply because they refuse to silence their faith.

As is usual with the issue of religious liberty, the debate surrounding the policy and legislation before the General Assembly to correct it, including several editorials in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is replete with misinformation, misunderstanding and confusion. Some, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, falsely claim that prayers offered before legislative or government bodies must be nonsectarian or non-denominational. Fortunately, the First Amendment and case law regarding this issue is absolutely clear and on the side of the chaplains.

Simply put, in no case involving public prayer at government-sponsored events (with the exception being public schools) does either the U.S. Supreme Court or any circuit court require that prayers offered be so-called "nonsectarian" or "nondenominational." In fact, the opposite is true. In the clear words of the Supreme Court's Marsh v. Chambers decision:

"In light of the history, there can be no doubt that the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer has become part of the fabric of our society. To invoke divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws is not, in these circumstances, a violation of the Establishment Clause; it is simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country."

Recently, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Pelphrey v. Cobb dismissed the argument that Marsh permits only "nonsectarian" prayers:

"The taxpayers argue that Marsh permits only "nonsectarian" prayers for commission meetings, but their reading is contrary to the command of Marsh that the courts are not to evaluate the content of the prayers absent evidence of exploitation. ... The court never held that the prayers in Marsh were constitutional because they were "nonsectarian."

Supporters of censorship, like the ACLU, are claiming that the Fourth Circuit Court's Turner v. Fredericksburg decision requires the state police's policy of censorship. Again, this is blatantly false.

While that case upheld a policy in Fredericksburg that censors prayers, it does not require that policy. In fact, in the words of Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the Turner decision:

"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."

Again, in Pelphrey, the Eleventh Circuit says:

"Although it upheld the policy of the [Fredericksburg City] Council, the Fourth Circuit expressly declined to hold that Marsh required a policy of nondenominational prayers." Adding, "[The courts] . . . have applied the precedents of the Supreme Court irrespective of the level of government involved."

Interestingly, in arguing against legislation reversing the state police policy in a recent Washington Post article, Kent Willis of the Virginia ACLU makes our case saying, "Maybe the worst part of all this is now you have the government deciding what's a proper prayer and what's not a proper prayer."

I couldn't agree more! The government should not be telling people how to pray or not to pray, and that is exactly what the state police policy does. Whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish or any other faith, chaplains should be able to pray at public events according to their beliefs, and those prayers should not be censored by the government. The legislation that has been presented to the General Assembly this year would simply protect chaplains of every religion.

Virginians are growing tired of these attacks on public faith. Our Commonwealth and nation are founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and no amount of revisionist history or politically motivated anti-religious bigotry will erase the truth. The First Amendment and the Statute for Religious Freedom protect the right of individuals to profess their faith in public. They do not protect a crowd from hearing about an individual's faith.

Once again our sacred rights are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Unfortunately, expunging our religious heritage from the public square seems all too in vogue in 21st century America, with elected officials and their political appointees leading the way. In the name of tolerance, public faith is not tolerated. While we would hope that Virginia's rich heritage of freedom would insulate us from such discrimination, recent history proves this not to be the case.

A Year Of Truth

A year after anything, it is easy to look back and wonder — in a head dizzying funnel cloud of amazement — where the time went. Easier still when you're not simply reminiscing, but have something of substance to look back upon. Where did the time go?

It has been a year since this online broadsheet tacked itself onto the world's virtual public square sideboard, rousing the restful and focusing the restless like a town crier or, we'd like to think, like the Virginia Patriot Jack Jouett, who's heroic 40-mile ride saved the lives of Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Harrison, Patrick Henry and Thomas Nelson, Jr., in a ride more important, but not as famous, than Paul Revere's.

Last year on this day we welcomed people to the truth (see first post here), promising to bring not the smack talk of many political blogs (God Bless'em, there are some good ones out there), but rather an intelligent discussion of issues, with some horse race and inside baseball politics when our time and interest allowed, and when our sources were talking. We also pledged to never back down on the truth, no matter how some may perceive it, because the truth is permanent and enduring, while political gain is fleeting. We're not naive, either. We know the field on which we play, and so we mix in our own brand of snark and ridicule to those who so richly deserve it. After all, the truth can be expressed not just through fact and explanation, or through reasoned argument, but by more vernacular means. Our first sentence recognized the prominence of this new medium.

We also have had a full year of reporting events, from our Capitol Square Diary of General Assembly machinations, to U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Virginia cases, to live and one-on-one Interviews with state and national figures, to Virginia State Police Chaplains who were ordered to cease praying in Jesus' name. We also have posted on the meaning of various holidays, patriotic television, pop culture and the media, about befriending legislators with whom we don't always agree; and created, among other things,  interactivity with an Action Center, reader Polls and video posts. It's been a full year, almost entirely fun, the little exasperation caused only from the wealth of topics and an already hectic schedule. Maintaining this blog is no one's full-time job, though it can seem like it. Three quick stats: 433 posts (1.7 posts per working day) and 1,073 comments.

We've also openly professed our lack of expertise in most things technological. Our contributors do know how to write superbly, though, and that's the essence of this anyway. The Virginia Gazette didn't look so hot in the 1700s, either. Slowly, we've added gadgets and gizmos, learning the mechanics as we go along, and that, too, has been fun. We're not the shiniest car on the block, but our motor hums ferociously. In keeping with the colonial/Captain Jouett theme it's better said that we don't have the prettiest horse in the stable, but he sure gallops a might! The blog is still pretty streamlined, as when we started, but it has grown into a vital portal of information on public policy in Virginia and on cultural and values issues at large.

Where has the time gone? Wherever it has, so too, has the truth. While we and several other worthwhile bloggers, grassroots organizations and alternative media sources continue to promulgate it in the on-going battle of ideas, not as much can be said for the body politic or the Mainstream Media. Whether it's the General Assembly's refusal to honestly deal with budget transparency or a handful of senators deviously plotting to restore taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood when it was effectively cut out of the budget, or a governor who disingenuously contrived reasons to cut abstinence education funding while misleading the legislature on the state's revenue for the purpose of creating new government intrusions into functions where it has no business; or national candidates and radical political organizations who, between them, have, and are currently spending, more than a billion dollars to create a "messianic" image of one candidate and distastefully distort the reputations of their opponents; the truth, sadly, has gone wanting in so many ways.

Still, there is optimism. Thousands read this blog, making us one of the most read political blogs in Virginia. Hundreds of others quote us. One year ago, we weren't sure what direction this blog would go, only that each day would be an exciting challenge to discern  which important topics needed to be discussed and how best to get that point across, and deal with the constant change that is politics and policy through technology and new methods of communication.

We may adapt a little here and there to meet those challenges, just as Captain Jouett doubtlessly adapted his ride for the dangers of his mission. More than two centuries later, through a much different manner, we carry on his ride against every bit as determined a force — a ride for truth and just cause that shielded him and Virginia's founders from the trials and dangers of their day. This first year has been a great ride. We hope you continue along with us for the entire journey.

Still More On Chaplain-Gate, From The Press Conference

This is the statement delivered by Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb (see archived video) at last week's news conference regarding the Virginia State Police chaplains who resigned after ordered to stop praying in Jesus' name. More than a dozen pastors attended,  including ministers from our pastors outreach arm, Pastors For Family Values, and other organizations, as well as from various denominations and ethnic backgrounds, many of whom addressed the media as well. 

Remarks of Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation of Virginia

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia 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." Today, thanks to the action of State Police Superintendent Flaherty (contact here) and its endorsement by Governor Tim Kaine (contact here), Thomas Jefferson's words are little more than ink on paper. Today, the words of the Statute for Religious Freedom that is the foundation for the tradition of religious liberty in our nation, rings hollow in the ears of a handful of Christian chaplains who have had their opinions in matters of religion diminished and their civil capacities affected simply because they refuse to silence their faith.

Unfortunately, expunging our Judeo-Christian heritage from the public square seems all too in vogue in 21st century America, with elected officials and their political appointees leading the way. In the name of tolerance, public faith is frowned upon. While we would hope that Virginia's rich heritage of freedom would insulate us from such discrimination, recent history proves this not to be the case.

The recent decision by Superintendent Flaherty and its subsequent endorsement by Governor Kaine is an act of anti-Christian hysteria based on a flawed decision by a three judge panel of the 4th circuit court that has yet to be upheld and is, in fact, in conflict with other circuit court decisions from around the country. 

The policy clearly violates the First Amendment protected rights of free speech and religious freedom. Requiring a Christian chaplain to effectively pray "to an unknown God" should frighten every American and Virginian regardless of their faith. Once again our sacred rights are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. 

At The Family Foundation, we are urging our members and members of our pastor outreach arm, Pastors For Family Values, to contact Governor Kaine (contact here) and Superintendent Flaherty (contact here) to urge them to reinstate the religious freedom and free expression rights of chaplains by reversing their decision. The people of Virginia are responding. Today, you see before you several members of Pastors For Family Values who are also here to show support to the chaplains and to encourage that this policy be reversed.

In the meantime, The Family Foundation is working with attorneys from Alliance Defense Fund and members of the General Assembly to determine what legal or legislative remedies are available to us. While we would prefer that the governor and superintendent do the right thing, we will be prepared for them if they choose to entrench themselves behind this poor decision.

It is unfortunate that at a time when the commonwealth faces a $3 billion revenue shortfall because of poor planning, the governor's administration has found the time to restrict the religious freedom rights of state police chaplains.  Of course, this isn't the first time in recent years that a governor and his staff have chosen to try to reduce religious liberty rights or remove traces of our Christian heritage from our nation.

During the administration of Governor Mark Warner, efforts were made to remove the phrase "In the Year of our Lord" from official documents. In fact, today if you apply to be a Notary Public, you are given the option to have that simple phrase left off of your certification paperwork. One must ask, for what reason did Mark Warner choose to spend time while governor removing a simple Christian phrase from state documents? Perhaps it was motivated by his fear of the "Christian Coalition, right to lifers, and home-schoolers" who he once referred to as "threatening to what it means to be an American."   

Considering the challenges of being governor, it is disturbing that both governors Warner and Kaine have found the time, or their staffs have found the time, to attack religious freedom.

Virginians are growing tired of these attacks on public faith. Our commonwealth and nation are founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and no amount of revisionist history or politically motivated anti-Christian bigotry will erase the truth.

The Family Foundation urges the governor and state police superintendent to reverse this discriminatory policy immediately. We urge them to reflect on what it means to be a Virginian, to reflect on the responsibility they have to our Founding Fathers. Stand for religious liberty — true religious tolerance — and protect the rights of these chaplains.

Interview With DPV Chairman Dickie Cranwell, Part 2

Yesterday, familyfoundation.org posted the first of a two-part interview with former House of Delegates Majority Leader and current Chairman of the Democrat Party of Virginia Dickie Cranwell. You can read it here. Previously, we posted an interview with Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Hager (click here for part one and here for part two) as well as one with Delegate Jeff Frederick (R-52, Woodbridge) who is challenging Mr. Hager for the RPV chairmanship. (Click here to read that interview.) With this interview, the three men who will lead Virginia's two major parties into the 2008 and 2009 elections are on record on this site.

Here is the conclusion of our interview with Chairman Cranwell. We look forward to your comments to what we think are some interesting responses to our questions.

familyfoundationblog.com: What is the biggest family-value issue facing Virginia today and how do Virginia Democrats propose dealing with it?

Chairman Dickie Cranwell: The economy — Democrats want (1) to fix the mortgage crisis; (2) tax cuts for middle class; (3) let the Bush tax break for the wealthy 1% of Americans expire; (4) end the war and use the money tied up by the war and tax breaks for the wealthy to rebuild America's infrastructure creating tens of thousands of jobs, and, last but not least (5) get gas prices down to realistic levels so working people can survive.

familyfoundationblog.com: What and who are/were your political and philosophical influences? What was it that influenced you to go into public service?

Chairman Cranwell: Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman. My mother (Republican) and father (Democrat) both felt we as Americans are obligated to give back to our community, state and country. Hopefully I have honored their wishes and their memory with my 30 years of public service.

familyfoundationblog.com: What do you think the Democrat Party of Virginia should stand for and why do you think it best represents the interests of Virginians?

Chairman Cranwell: The Democratic Party of Virginia stands for the working family — men and women who work every day, pay their taxes and their dues — we stand for a decent wage for the working man and woman to support their family, a world-class education for their children, and fiscal responsibility. Virginia Democrats produced a balanced budget every year during the almost 150 years they controlled the Virginia General Assembly, without having to extend the legislative session as the Republicans have done repeatedly since they have been in power. Democrats best represent Virginia's interest because, as our Democratic leaders have shown, Democrats put people before politics.

familyfoundationblog.com: Have you sent your congratulations to Chairman Hager on his impending inclusion into the Bush family? Has he invited you to any weekends in Crawford or Kennebunkport yet?

Chairman Cranwell: I have not sent John Hager congratulations on his son's marriage to George and Laura Bush's daughter. I know that John knows I wish them all the best. I consider John Hager a friend and enjoyed my years of service with him in the General Assembly. He is a good, decent, hard-working man who the Republicans would be smart to re-elect as party chair. I have no invitation to Crawford or Kennebunkport and I expect none, however, I expect the wedding party will be great fun and will be the source of some fond memories in the future for both the Bush and Hager families.

Interview With DPV Chairman Dickie Cranwell, Part 1

We are pleased to post here our interview with former House of Delegates Majority Leader Dickie Cranwell, chairman of the Democrat Party of Virginia. We will post it in two parts, concluding tomorrow. The questions and answers appear exactly as submitted. We think you will find his comments very interesting and worthy of discussion and debate. We look forward to your feedback. With this interview, all three men who are, or will be, leading the Commonwealth's two major parties for the next year are on record on this blog. Previously, we posted an interview with Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Hager (click here for part one and here for part two) as well as one with Delegate Jeff Frederick (R-52, Woodbridge) who is challenging Mr. Hager for the RPV chairmanship. Click here to read that interview.

familyfoundation.org: You've had a distinguished career as an attorney, legislator — the House Majority Leader, in fact — and party chairman. With the Democrats making so many gains in Virginia over the last few years, why retire as party chairman now?

Chairman Dickie Cranwell: I never sought the position of Chair of the Democratic Party. Governor Warner asked me to fill the unexpired term of Kerry Donley. I agreed to serve until a new Governor was elected. Governor Tim Kaine's vision for restructuring the Democratic Party agreed with mine so I agreed to stay on until Donley's term expires in 2009. Hopefully the changes in the Democratic Party which have occurred during my tenure have made the party stronger and more candidate friendly.

We have taken back the State Senate, elected the last two governors and a U.S. Senator. And, I anticipate Virginia will elect Mark Warner as its next U.S. Senator and at least one new Democratic member to the House of Representatives this year. I also believe Virginia will be in play in the Presidential race, something that has not occurred since Lyndon Johnson.

The party is in good shape and I have boys, ages 8 and 10, so there is a lot of baseball and soccer to occupy my time. I am just stepping down. I am not retiring from the field of battle. There is a wealth of talented people in the party who can carry on the work of the Chair. I look forward to those folks' continued success.

familyfoundation.org: U.S. Senator Barack Obama has said we are now entering a post-partisan era. Does that mean that parties no longer will be partisan? Do you agree, and if so, what does that mean for political parties? (For example, what will it mean for the parties' ability to organize, recruit candidates and fund raise?) If not, what are the parties' role in policy debate in general?

Chairman Cranwell: I believe you either misstated or do not understand Senator Obama's message. He says we have to get beyond the Beltway mentality; that Democrats and Republicans need to work together to rebuild a shattered economy, end an ill-conceived war, save working people's homes from foreclosure, rein in the oil companies to drive down the price of gasoline and stop the hemorrhaging of debt inflicted on us by the Bush Administration which has mortgaged the future of every child in America.

Senator Obama's message is that we are Americans first and foremost and, if we work together, nothing is beyond our reach. I believe in the two-party system and believe it will continue to serve America well, but the parties must be willing to work together for the American people.

Governor Mark Warner proved this by working with the Republican majority in the General Assembly during his term. As a result, a $6 billion hole in the budget was fixed. 

Along the way, Warner chaired the National Governors Association, leading a national high school reform effort to meet the challenges of a global economy. He was named among Governing Magazine's "Public Officials of the Year" in 2004, TIME Magazine's "America's 5 Best Governors" in 2005, and Newsweek's "Who's Next" issue in 2006.

While Warner was governor, Virginia was named "the best managed state in the nation by Governing Magazine, and the "runaway winner" in the new "Best State For Business" ranking done by Forbes, based on the tax structure, education system, and bipartisan fiscal management the Warner administration had put in place. Education Week Magazine named Virginia as the best place for a child to be born in terms of educational opportunity during Warner's tenure as Governor.

familyfoundation.org: We see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton trying to answer the concerns of values voters, a demographic Republicans typically win. What do Democrats in Virginia and nationally have to do to appeal to people with concerns over abortion, marriage and pro-family issues?

Chairman Cranwell: Voters who are pro-family should be flocking to Democrats. Democrats understand that having a good paying job is central to any family. Democrats understand that we must act to protect the largest investment of most families (their homes) from foreclosure. Democrats want world-class health care and education for every American. Families want to know that if their home and life is destroyed by natural disaster, their government will not take years to help them rebuild their communities. They know they can count on Democrats to make FEMA really work for the working man and woman.