The line between church and state became a little more blurry when six of the 17 chaplains for the Virginia State Police resigned over new restrictions on prayer. In an effort to comply with the concept of a government free of church recognition, the chaplains were asked to offer only non-denominational services for public events and ceremonies.
According to one chaplain, he believed that this meant that using the name Jesus Christ was forbidden — a claim that a police spokesperson denies: “There was no written directive nor were chaplains specifically told in their meetings with the executive staff and colonel that they could not use ‘Jesus Christ’ in their prayer.” Even though the police issued this statement, many on the force still believed this violated their conscience. Says one chaplain, "There were several of us who felt that because of our convictions about what the Bible says, we couldn't agree to go along with a generic prayer policy."
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Republican lawmakers in the state legislature are arguing that this is a restriction on the First Amendment. Their House Majority leader said, “For those of us who understand the importance of religion in American life and value the free expression of religion as one of our essential rights, the Kaine administration’s directive is disappointing and disheartening.” The state chaplain program, created in 1979, was designed to offer department employees consolation and spiritual guidance. The chaplains are putting together an online petition to get police departments to rescind the new rule. Should they?