Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chaplain Prayer Bill Dies in Legislation

This news from Virginia:
The Senate Courts of Justice committee yesterday killed a Senate version of the bill, and a House version never got a hearing in committee. Today is the deadline for each house of the legislature to handle its own bills, so any bill (except money bills) not done by today is effectively dead.

The bills are repeats of efforts from the 2009 session. The issue arose in late 2008 after a federal appeals court upheld a Fredericksburg City Council ban on referring to Jesus Christ in public prayers that open council meetings. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.

As a result of the court's ruling, State Police Col. Steven Flaherty had directed police chaplains--who are troopers who volunteer chaplain services--to avoid denominational prayers at public events, such as trooper graduations.

Six chaplains resigned in protest, igniting a controversy that had a group of ministers criticizing then-governor Tim Kaine and Flaherty for the directive, saying it violated the chaplains' right to pray according to their own conscience.

Supporters of Flaherty's directive argued that sectarian prayers at public events violated the audience's right to freedom of religion.

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