After months of lobbying by conservative activists, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has quietly reversed a policy banning Virginia State Police troopers from referring to Jesus Christ in public prayers.
McDonnell this afternoon sent Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the State Police superintendent, to tell the nine troopers who serve as chaplains about the change in policy.
“The Governor does not believe the state should tell chaplains of any faith how to pray,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Marin said. “Religious officials of all faiths should be allowed to pray according to the dictates of their own conscience, and in accordance with their faith traditions, while being respectful of the faith traditions of others.
“Prior to a change two years ago, the State Police permitted those participating in the volunteer State Police chaplain program, established in 1979, to pray in accordance with their own faith. The Governor believes that longstanding bipartisan policy is the appropriate one. This policy puts the State Police chaplains in the same position as those in the United States Military, Virginia National Guard and other law enforcement agencies.”
In September 2008, Flaherty told chaplains to offer nondenominational prayers at department-sanctioned public events in response to a recent federal appeals court ruling that a Fredericksburg City Council member may not pray “in Jesus’s name” during council meetings because the opening invocation is government speech.