Police Chaplain Prayer Bill Passes Va. House

February 4, 2009

Author: Bob Lewis

Source: The Associated Press


A bill reversing an administrative order that State Police chaplains offer ecumenical, non-denominational prayers at official events has won House passage.

The legislation passed the House 66-30 Wednesday with 14 Democrats and both independents joining 50 Republicans in support. All votes against it were from Democrats.

Backers of the bill said it restored the chaplains' right to religious freedom. But opponents said the bill violates the First Amendment by having the state advocate one specific religion.

The bill passed as the American Civil Liberties Union warned in a news release Wednesday that it considers the bill unconstitutional and will sue if it passes.

The measure now heads to the Senate where a similar bill that would more broadly allow for denominational prayer at government-run events awaits action. Should the measures win House and Senate approval, they would likely face Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's veto.

"If you are getting paid to be a state chaplain and you are on the clock as a state employee, you shouldn't be proselytizing; you should be in these public settings offering prayers that should really be inclusive," Kaine said.