I saw an ad for the november 1st rally on facebook:
Six Virginia State Police Chaplains were just forced to resign by the Kaine Administration because they prayed publicly “in Jesus name.” In response, 86 Virginia Pastors have taken a pledge to mobilize their people to vote, and now we’re standing up for Jesus with these chaplains.
That caught my eye, so I decided to dig a bit deeper. Turns out no one was forced to resign. They chose to. (Washington Times):
At least six of the Virginia State Police’s 17 chaplains have resigned following a request they offer only “nondenominational” prayers during department-sanctioned public events and ceremonies, police said Wednesday.
The request was made by state police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty earlier this month and has been decried by Virginia House Republicans as a violation of the First Amendment and an attack on Christianity. One Republican delegate said chaplains were told they could not invoke the name of Jesus, but a state police spokeswoman denied the assertion.
To “require those troopers to disregard their own faith while serving violates their First Amendment rights and prevents them from serving effectively as chaplains,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican. “These men had little choice but to resign.”
To better understand the dispute we ought to take a look at one of the men behind it:
However, Delegate Charles W. “Bill” Carrico Sr., a former state trooper, said he has spoken with some of the chaplains, who said the colonel’s request was not put in writing and was treated as an order.
The chaplains were told that “they cannot reference the name of Jesus Christ,” said Mr. Carrico, Grayson Republican. “That’s against their beliefs and against the dictates of their conscience.”
Bill Carrico is the owner of In Jesus Name I Pray.org (registered on the 22nd to his state email address: DelCCarrico@house.state.va.us). He serves in the Virginia House. He recently attempted to run for the US House, and held off an aggressive challenge (and a close vote) from a Democratic challenger. He also put forth a bill (which passed the state house and failed in the state senate) to allow religious prayer on public property:
Amends the current religious freedom provisions of the Virginia Constitution to “secure further the people’s right to acknowledge God”; to permit prayer and the recognition of “religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including public schools”; and to prohibit the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions, including public school divisions, from composing school prayers or requiring individuals to “join in prayer or other religious activity.”
The second half being a cover. His real concern is in pushing Christianity further into the political mainstream. Bill Carrico believes this is a Christian Nation (emphasis mine):
Patrick Henry once said “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was not founded by religionist, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason people of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom to worship here.”
Bill has an unsurprisingly poor understanding of the consitution:
Other religions have the right to worship here, however just because they are offended by what we were founded upon doesn’t give them the right to take away our constitutional freedoms.
The separation of church and state is no where in the constitution and was a letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist suggesting that the state should never be allowed to run the church.
The first ammendment to the constitution clearly reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
Arguing this is a Christian nation runs directly counter to the spirit and letter of the first ammendment.
The dispute on its surface is an argument over whether public officials can offer demoninational prayer in an official context. Underneath is a strategy by Dominionist politicians to paint America as a Christian nation, which serves as a political foundation for easing more theocratic laws into the books.
(One wonders how would the same chaplains react if it had been a Hindu prayer in an official context?)
Posted under News, People, Politics, Religion
This post was written by Dan on September 30, 2008