Jewish groups call on McDonnell to change 'Jesus' prayer policy
The Jewish Federation communities of the Commonwealth wrote a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell asking him to reconsider his decision yesterday that lifted a ban on Virginia State Police troopers referring to Jesus Christ in public prayers.
"It leads us toward unnecessary religious clashes, demeans our Commonwealth's Jeffersonian principles and creates an unwelcoming environment for the Commonwealth's Jewish citizens and other religious minorities,'' six representatives of the groups wrote. "A final concern is the likelihood that revisiting this guidance would ultimately lead to litigation costly to our Commonwealth."
Read the full letter.
In September 2008, Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent, told chaplains to offer nondenominational prayers at department-sanctioned public events in response to a recent federal appeals court ruling that a Fredericksburg City Council member may not pray "in Jesus's name" during council meetings because the opening invocation is government speech. McDonnell directed Flaherty to change that policy yesterday.
McDonnell told reporters at the state Capitol this afternoon that he did not believe state officials should tell chaplains how to pray.
"It's a voluntary chaplain program and I think, in the interest of religious freedom, they should pray according to the dictates of their faith,'' he said. "I just didn't think it was right, the change that was made a couple years ago, to have an official state policy to tell chaplains of any faith how to pray, whether Muslim or Jew or Catholic or Christian. They should be able to pray according to the dictates of their conscience and the traditions of their faith. I think it was the right thing to do. It preserves the views of religious liberty that have been important in our country."
The state police chaplain program was created in 1979 to minister to department employees and grieving families and speak at graduations, funerals and other events and ceremonies. The change affects public events, such as the annual graduation and memorial service.
April 29, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate , Timothy M. Kaine
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