Monday, September 29, 2008

More on Chaplains Praying in Jesus' Name - Virginia

The Virginia State Police is insisting that its chaplains NOT pray in Jesus' name at public events (sponsored by the police). Consequently, five chaplains have resigned. The policy is in place because the superintendent is worried about "offending people of other faiths."

If one looks at this from the Constitution's viewpoint, it seems relatively clear to me (and apparently oppositely true to the Superintendent). The First Amendment prohibits Congress from making a law "respecting an establishment of religion." It also prohibits that entity from inhibiting the free exercise of religion. The 14th Amendment carried the RIGHTS of the PEOPLE down to the states. So it seems clear that it is a right of the people to not have their religious expression limited by the state (small "s"). The Superintendent's ruling has the effect of establishing a law of inhibition of religious expression, since the Superintendent is acting officially for the state and compelling others to follow this ruling. I can see why chaplains feel they need to resign in protest.

The Superintendent wishes not to offend. The Constitution does not guarantee that citizens won't be offended - "freedom from offense" is not a Constitutional right. So it seems clear that such a ruling is not required of the Superintendent. And since it is not required, then the greater infringement seems to be on the rights of free expression for the Chaplains.

Or does simply hearing a chaplain pray in Jesus' name have the effect of establishing a law? Does the state police also have Jewish chaplains? Or chaplains of other faiths? I am guessing so, but the article linked below does not make that clear.

The Superintendent wants "non-denominational prayers" at public events. Given that the courts often rule for religious rights of atheists, does that mean a non-denominational prayer really should not mention God (or "god")? It would be hard to craft such a prayer!

Read the whole article from Richmond Times-Dispatch

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