Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Virginia Senate Committee Rejects Bill To Allow Sectarian Prayer by Police Chaplains

Yesterday a Virginia state Senate committee rejected a House-passed bill that would have specifically permitted volunteer State Police chaplains to deliver sectarian prayers at departmental ceremonies. HB 2314 was a reaction to a directive issued last September by the State Police Superintendent ordering the State Police department's 17 volunteer chaplains to deliver only non-denominational prayers at government sponsored events. This led to resignation of six officers from their chaplaincy duties. (See prior posting.) The House version of the bill would have permitted police chaplains to pray according to their own consciences, but would have required a disclaimer in printed programs for police events to emphasize that the invocation was not approved or reviewed by the police department. Yesterday's Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot reports that in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, the 8-7 party line vote which came after nearly an hour of debate effectively retains the ban on chaplains invoking the name of a specific religious deity. Del. Charles W. "Bill" Carrico Sr., sponsor of HB 2314, characterized the Senate committee defeat of it as persecution of the Christian faith.