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Cuccinelli: McDonnell policy allowing 'Jesus' prayer is constitutional

Rosalind Helderman

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to allow volunteer state police chaplains to offer sectarian prayers at public events is "constitutionally defensible," and he will "defend it accordingly" against threatened litigation.

McDonnell yesterday told Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent, that he was reversing a 2008 policy that required chaplains to offer non-denominational prayers at officially-sanctioned police events. The policy change means the chaplains may now pray in Jesus's name. Flaherty had made the 2008 change in response to a federal court ruling prohibiting prayer that mentioned Jesus at Fredericksburg City Council meetings.

Interestingly, Cuccinelli does not indicate that he believes the previous policy was unconstitutional--only that McDonnell's position is also constitutional and, as the state's top lawyer, he will defend it in court.

"Both sectarian and nonsectarian prayers are constitutionally defensible in the case of public sector chaplains. The government can respect all faiths without dictating the content of a particular prayer. I applaud this policy position as well as Governor McDonnell and Colonel Flaherty for allowing chaplains to pray with and for their officers as they deem fit," Cuccinelli said in a statement.

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By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 29, 2010; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

Why do Christians find it so necessary to publicy show how Christian they are all the time.

Oh yeah, that's right. Because while they are busy voting for murder and torture and in no way ever help anybody, it's the only way we'd know they were part of the pure evil called Christianity.

Only truly horrible people would shove their inane god in our faces constantly.

Decent people go about their business quietly.
Truly horrible people.

Posted by: bflorhodes | April 29, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I guess many forgot this country was founded on christianity. why do other people force their religion and lifestyles in our faces and expect us to hide ours because we're offending them. we're being force to accept lifestyles "pure sin" everywhere we go, on tv/on the streets women and men are half dressed, profanity now on regular television, nasty commercial ads promoting sex, alcohol,adultery etc.. and you get upset because the name of JESUS can be said at the end of a prayer. PLEASE! What about our children having children, and getting killed over dumb stuff and Aids and cancer, highschool drop outs and all this other stuff but folks get offended over prayer ending in the name of JESUS. The only reason why we are still standing is because of true christians. yes there are folk who proclaim a lot but don't practice what they preach. God will deal with them. But people we got to stop being so divided and work together in this country; there is so much more at stake than being offended of JESUS' name at the end of a prayer. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Unity is power. Let's make America strong for us and our children. love one another.

Posted by: kingschild | April 29, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

In response to kingschild: this country was not founded on Christianity.

Repeating it over and over doesn't make it true.

Read a book.

Posted by: CrabHands | April 29, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I am a practicing Catholic who does not accept all of the teachings/tenets of the Church, yet I do attend Mass and try to honor "Christian" principles. I do not wave my beliefs at others, do not preach my faith or beliefs to others and wish ALL others (Christians included) would do the same. Religion is personal and should so remain.

Posted by: fairness3 | April 29, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Yes, a lot of our nation's founders were Christian, who believed whole-heartedly, and died for, religious freedom. Not freedom to practice whatever kind of Evangelical Christianity you want, but freedom to practice any religion or no religion at all.

I don't know why everyone has forgotten how radical the founders of this country were. They believed that people should be allowed to live however they wanted (could that possibly apply to being allowed to be gay?) and believe whatever they wanted, not be forced to worship in a faith they don't subscribe to- or do you not remember why Europeans came to America in the first place? It was so, so deeply important to them that this not be a religious state, and now everyone who references the way this nation was founded has forgotten how open, accepting, and progressive the founding tenets of this nation were.

It is incredibly disrespectful to our country and our history to insist people live exactly how you want them to. That, my friends, is what fascism ACTUALLY is. I applaud my predecessor for the remark, "read a book." Our education system really is in the toilet if no one learned anything in their history classes.

Posted by: noonecares | April 29, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

If atheism, buddism, muslim religions and new age religions are allowed to say and do what they want in this country,and we just turn our heads and do and say nothing about it, then do not tell me that we cannot add the word "Jesus" to our prayers. You that are complaining about this are the "true" racists !!! Go Gov McDonnell !!

Posted by: maris1 | April 29, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

My interpretation of the Establishment Clause is that the government should not show a preference for any religious practice. This could be used to call for non-sectarian prayers as being non-preferential. Of course that's the Federal government and what should that have to do with the Commonwealth of Virginia?

What I would find interesting is whether the people who are backing the inclusion of "Jesus" in this case would be willing to tolerate a non-Christian chaplain or religious person giving a similar prayer at a similar event yet invoking their own particular deity. Note I did not say "accept", mere tolerance would be an advance for some of the more vocal supporters.

Posted by: ribert | April 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Kingschiild & Maris: I wouldn't agree with you more. Its about time we start exercising our rights, rights to religious freedom.

Bravo Gov McDonnell

Posted by: Jassie1 | April 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

If atheism, buddism, muslim religions and new age religions are allowed to say and do what they want in this country,and we just turn our heads and do and say nothing about it, then do not tell me that we cannot add the word "Jesus" to our prayers. You that are complaining about this are the "true" racists !!! Go Gov McDonnell !!

Posted by: maris1 | April 29, 2010 11:59 AM
_________________________________________
This argument is specious. We are not talking about restricting the free exercise of religion here. Christians are absolutely free to "do and say what they want". By the way, your comment suggests that when anyone but Christians "do and say what they want" that this is something to be tolerated as an aberration.

In any case, what McDonnell is doing amounts to government endorsement of a single religion. That is illegal under our Constitution.

By the way, if he allowed Muslim prayers at all police events you would be howling. But because it's Jesus in this case, well that's OK. It's called hypocrisy and you are a hypocrite.

Posted by: Observer001 | April 29, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Another right wing nut decision from the Kook-in -nelli AG! They are showing their true Pat Robertson brand of intolerance of anyone and any thing different than they are now!!

Posted by: lsf07 | April 29, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

In church, during the Peace, it's perfectly okay to hug a perfect stranger, but doing it in another context could easily lead to serious trouble. For Christians, praying in Jesus' name in church is fine. But don't impose it on others who don't share your beliefs. The problem with McDonnell and Cuccinelli is that they don't seem to have a problem with theocracy even though the founders explicitly ruled it out in the Bill of Rights.

Posted by: jlhare1 | April 29, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Why is anyone leading anyone in prayer before any public event? Religion is a personal belief, not something that should be used to hose down a crowd of people.

Posted by: bgd1964 | April 29, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Why is anyone leading anyone in prayer before any public event? Religion is a personal belief, not something that should be used to hose down a crowd of people.

Posted by: bgd1964 | April 29, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Kookanelli is a criminal who uses taxpayer money to fund a Right Wing agenda. He should be investigated for using his VA funded office and employees for GOP partisan activities.

The Tea Party is funded by Wall Street and Oil and Coal industry companies, which is why they are silent on Wall Street Regulation and Transparency and on the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.

Posted by: liveride | April 29, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli loves taking it up the 2 hole!!!

Posted by: NATINALS | April 29, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

This country was founded by Christians... and by Jews, deists of all sorts, and atheists.

This country was NOT founded on Christian principles, NOT AT ALL.

The Christian principles at the time of the founding of this country included "Divine Right of Kings" (Romans 13:1,2) and that slave ownership was permitted by God through the Bible (Stringfellow, Freeman, etc.), and certainly did NOT include tolerance of other religions (the Puritans openly killed Quakers).

Any brief review of the documents from that time will show that, if anything, the founding fathers distrusted priests & ministers in government (see Patrick Henry and Madison for example). The 2nd President (Adams), and the entire 5th Congress confirmed the "non-Christian" status of the US government within the Treaty of Tripoli (see article 11).

What has happened is that today's "Christian Principles" (especially American Christians)have become the principles upon which this country was founded.

At the time Jefferson penned the Declaration, he spent a lot of time listing the REASONS to counter the Divine Rights and overthrow a King. When this country actually did go to war, many ministers and priests and their followers fled to Canada outwardly claiming the new country to be the "work of the devil".

History is painful to Christians, which is why they spend so much time denying and rewriting it.

Posted by: NancyNaive | April 29, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

so does this mean that we can have state sponsored satanic ceremonies with blood and ritualised sodomy too?

Posted by: MarilynManson | April 29, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

so does this mean that we can have state sponsored satanic ceremonies with blood and ritualised sodomy too?

Posted by: MarilynManson | April 29, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

God, I hope so... oh, wait...

Posted by: NancyNaive | April 29, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

This country was founded for economic reasons. Jamestown preceded Plymouth by 13 years. Those that settled Plymouth may have come to avoid religious problems, but once here they demanded believers to do so their way. America has always been about commerce.

Posted by: jckdoors | April 29, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Based on this and several other actions he's taken this guy so clearly has a right wing Christian agenda. It's hard to defend choosing him for attorney general in a state government that's supposed to be secular. He'd be a better choice in a country that doesn't separate church and state. I still can't imagine what my fellow Virginians were thinking when they elected him.

Posted by: canyonjunkie | April 29, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

It seems that the more you flaunt your religion, the less religious you truly are.

Posted by: missingwisc | April 29, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Sinclair Lewis: When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the cross and the flag.
Well, it's here.

Posted by: bdunn1 | April 30, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

To canyonjunkie: the only thing I think you got wrong in questioning "what my fellow Virginians were thinking" in electing Cuckoo-nelli was to imply there was any "thinking".

Impeachment, anyone?

Posted by: LifeLongVirginian | May 4, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Amusing how it often seems the most vocal among self-proclaiming Christians in our democracy -- who commonly see no problem with taking advantage of their majority status in ways both subtle and large whenever they can get away with it (which is very often) -- will self-pityingly cry foul about the "persecution" they supposedly suffer at the hands of the minority of us who don't share their religious beliefs. Get over yourselves people, and try questioning why it is you feel the need to subvert EVERYBODY'S state power for your own evangelical purposes.

In my view, the definition of true immorality is holding yourself and your group exempt from the limits you would place on others, or conversely granting yourself and your group privileges you would withhold from others (in other words, simply breaking the golden rule). But many Christians seem to feel entitled to do this all the time -- for example, in how they desire to reserve the legal benefits and social status of marriage, as granted by the secular state, for themselves and their group (as they perceive it) while denying it to others. Then they turn around and whine about how homosexuals merely wanting treatment under the law equal to that which the rest of us enjoy somehow amounts to secular-societal presecution against THEM. Philosophical news flash: You can try to strive for moral perfection, or you can try to obtain absolute power, but by definition you can't have both. WWJD?

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | May 4, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse


Separation of church and state is one of the most important tenants of our forefather's vision as expressed in the founding documents of this great land. The reasons for this separation were clear back then and remain so today.

Kookinelli is wasting people's (state and federal) time and money with all of his fantasy lawsuits and proclamations such as this that are neither based on real law nor science.

Posted by: transtique1 | May 6, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

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