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Ban lifted on Virginia police chaplainsí sectarian prayerscomment (0)

May 13, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has lifted a two-year-old ban on sectarian prayers — including those referring to Jesus Christ — led by Virginia State Police chaplains at department-sanctioned public events.

The recently elected Republican governor instructed police superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty on April 28 to inform the nine troopers who serve as chaplains of the change in policy.

“The governor does not believe the state should tell chaplains of any faith how to pray,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Religious officials of all faiths should be allowed to pray according to the dictates of their consciences.”

Flaherty, who was reappointed superintendent by McDonnell on April 28, initiated the ban in September 2008 in response to a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a Fredericksburg, Va., City Council member may not pray in Jesus’ name during council meetings because invocations are government speech. Flaherty said the chaplain-prayer policy never applied to private ceremonies or individual counseling sessions, but only official public departmental events. In response, six chaplains — all troopers who hold the religious post voluntarily — resigned in protest. Then-Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said at the time he did not initiate the ban but supported it. Attempts to change the policy failed in the Virginia General Assembly in 2009 and 2010.

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