RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Wednesday state police superintendent Stephen Flaherty reinstated a policy allowing chaplains to use the name Jesus during services. At the urging of then-Governor Tim Kaine, Flaherty rescinded the policy two years ago after a fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
The court said prayers delivered on behalf of governments can't favor one religion over another. At the time six chaplains resigned. Religious groups had asked Governor Bob McDonnell to reinstate the policy and the governor says chaplains "should" be allowed to pray according to their consciences.
The ACLU of Virginia says Wednesday's action is a violation of the separation of church and state, but groups like the "Virginia Christian Alliance" praise the decision.
"It's great to have people in office who will stand up for the values of the people of Virginia," said Don Blake, Virginia Christian Alliance Chairman.
"This is about pursuing religious liberty. What the courts have said is that it's extremely important that when the government gets involved in any kind of religious exercise that it not show preference for one religion over another," ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.
The Virginia Christian Alliance, with the help of many religious groups, collected more than 15,000 petitions urging Governor McDonnell to reverse the policy. They planned to deliver them to him next week. They're pleased that's no longer necessary.
Meanwhile, the ACLU plans to publish a manual to help police chaplains follow the law when presiding at community services.