Home Virginia Politics David Englin: McDonnell Policy “an affront to all Virginians of minority religion...

David Englin: McDonnell Policy “an affront to all Virginians of minority religion or no religion”


Delegate David Englin (D-45) issued the following statement today in response to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s reversal of nondenominational requirements for State Police chaplains:”

Today’s reversal by Governor McDonnell of the Virginia State Police policy permitting only nondenominational, inclusive invocations at government-sponsored functions is an affront to all Virginians of minority religion or no religion.

As a Jew, I am proud of Virginia’s history of religious inclusiveness, which started with Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Statute of Religious Freedom, and George Washington, who promised the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, an American government “which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

As an Air Force veteran raised on U.S. military bases overseas, I have experienced firsthand the unifying power of military chaplains, who defend the First Amendment by ministering in their own particular faith traditions to their denominational flocks while providing inclusive, nondenominational blessings at official government functions. Even beyond that, military chaplains pride themselves on ensuring people under their charge of all faiths — or no faith — are able to exercise their beliefs. As an Air Force officer, I attended Passover seders and other Jewish observances organized by Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic chaplains.

Rather than look to this proven, constitutional model, Bob McDonnell has chosen a policy that allows agents of the government to foist their religious beliefs on others, satisfying the Religious Right while turning his back on the diversity and pluralism that has made our country great.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    As a Christian married to a Jew, I can never fathom the reason that some members of my faith cannot follow the dictate of Christ himself, except that Christ tells us the reason when it comes to prayer:

    “And when you pray, don’t be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the church/synagogue and on the corners of the street, so that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter your closet and when you have shut the door, pray to your God, which is in secret. And your God, which sees in secret, shall reward you openly.” (Matthew 6: 5-7)

    Christ goes on to say that God already knows our needs.

    To me, the most significant part of that passage is “that they may be seen by men.” That’s what all this is about…the appearance of being religious in the eyes of others. Bob McDonnell is simply repaying another part of his base – those who insist on appearing pious.

    P.S.: Please note the use of the neuter pronoun in the reference to God…but that’s another post.

  • kindler

    Is there any relationship between Candidate Bob, that moderate guy who was going to focus on jobs, transportation and such, and Governor Bob who, with “bad cop” Cooch, is fighting to be among the nation’s leading right wing culture warriors?

    There’s a technical term for what McDonnell did during his campaign. What is it?  Oh yeah, I think it’s called LYING.

    So among the growing list of things my VA taxes are paying for now are suing the Federal government for expanding healthcare coverage, suing EPA for trying to confront the climate crisis, adding barriers to the restoration of voting rights for those who’ve served their time, and now, paying state chaplains to invoke the name of Jesus in public ceremonies.

    I’d be happy to pay to reduce NOVA’s ever growing traffic jams, but that doesn’t seem to be on these guys’ agenda.  

  • Teddy Goodson

    It sounds a little like establishing a religion to me. Or, has our conservative court system already okayed denominational prayers at government functions?

    I just attended the luncheon for the Martin Luther King Foundation Scholarship Fund presentations. A local preacher gave the invocation, and she never once mentioned any deity other than the all-powerful God Almighty, although I am quite certain she was a Methodist or a Baptist. I was seated next to Bernie Cohen, a former Delegate from Alexandria (Brian Moran took his seat when he retired); he is Jewish, and we both noticed with pleasure the carefully non-denominational tone.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Further notes on what Christ taught about prayer:

    Matthew 14:23 – When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

    Matthew 26:36 – Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, Sit here, while I go and pray yonder.

    Mark 1:35 – In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

    Luke 9:18 – It came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were to him.

    Why cannot the very people who insist that every word of the Bible is the inerrant word of God not follow the words of Christ?