Police Prayer Bill Passes Va. House

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CBNNews.com - Virginia's House of Delegates has passed a bill that restores State Police chaplains' rights to pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

The bill reverses last year's order for police to offer non-denominational prayers at official events such as trooper graduation ceremonies and the annual memorial service for fallen officers.

Bill sponsor, Del. Charles W. Carrico Sr., R-Grayson, said that not allowing such prayers would violate freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

In a floor debate to overturn the order, some delegates quoted the Bible and Thomas Jefferson.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem said that Thomas Jefferson did not intend to hinder any form of prayer when he wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

"Jefferson did not mean to bleach out from our society all public prayer, or all prayer from the various denominations," Griffith said.

Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, pointed out that prayers opening each daily session of the General Assembly frequently invoke the name of Jesus.

However, Va. Governor Tim Kaine, chair of the Democratic National Committee, is expected to veto the bill if it reaches his office.

"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," he said.

The Family Foundation of Virginia labeled the policy an attack on Christianity.

Foundation president Victoria Cobb said the bill is "reasonable legislation that simply protects the freedom of conscience and speech of those state police law enforcement officers who volunteer their time as chaplains."

The bill passed the House on a 66-30 vote.

Sources: Richmond Times Dispatch, The Virginian Pilot, Associated Press, Daily Press

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