Earlier today, The Family Foundation and the Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter and model prayer policy to the mayor and city council of Chesapeake in response to a threat to their practice of opening council meetings in prayer. The threat came from the atheists and agnostics group, Freedom From Religion Foundation. It said it would sue the City of Chesapeake because it opens its city council meetings with prayer. Upon hearing this, we immediately contacted our friends at Alliance Defense Fund. Senior Counsel Mike Johnson, who flew to Richmond on short notice during the General Assembly session to testify on behalf of state police chaplains, drew up a letter for the council and provided ADF's model prayer policy.

In a legal information letter to Chesapeake Mayor Alan Krasnoff, Mr. Johnson wrote:

Our information has explained why recent demands to censor or prohibit public invocations are unwarranted. There is simply no question that a legislative body may open its sessions with an invocation. Public prayer has been an essential part of our heritage since the time of this nation's founding, and our Constitution has always protected the activity. Moreover, such prayer can include sectarian references without running afoul of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

ADF is so confident in its policy that it offers free legal defense to any locality that adopts it. Interestingly, Delegate John Cosgrove (R-78, Chesapeake) brought to our attention that Chesapeake just happens to be in the Congressional District of Randy Forbes, one of the most outspoken defenders of religious liberty in Congress (see the most watched House floor speech ever on YouTube, by Rep. Forbes, on religious liberty).

Rep. Forbes is the leader of the effort to require the new Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.. to remove the ban on references to our nation's religious heritage. The same group that is suing to stop the engraving of the words "In God We Trust" in the Center just happened to send a threatening letter to a city council in Congressman Forbes' district. Perhaps more than just coincidence?

Ironically, The Family Foundation and ADF today are hosting a joint pastors conference in Fredericksburg, the city where much of the debate over public prayer at city council meetings began several years ago.   

It is our hope that the elected officials in Chesapeake will heed the advice of ADF, adopt their recommended prayer policy and put this issue to rest once and for all.