“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.