Church-state follies in Virginia riles Jewish groups

 Christian right groups are applauding and Jewish groups are protesting the recent action by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, rescinding a 2008 order requiring police chaplains in the state to use only nondenominational prayers at official events, not prayers invoking the name of Jesus.

Well, no big surprise here; McConnell is a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and he’s the guy who managed to embarrass many Virginians wityh his recent decision to revive Confederate History Month – later amended after a flurry of bad nationwide publicity.

When the nondenominational order went into effect 2 years ago, six of the state’s 17 police chaplains resigned in protest. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, none of the state’s current police chaplains is Jewish.

Who’d have guessed?

The change was promoted by the Virginia Christian Alliance, whose logo looks to me like  a cross fashioned into a sword – very Crusaderish.

Jewish Federations and community councils in Richmond and the Tidewater area, along with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said in a letter to McDonnell that his decision represents a “divisive effort to revisit sectarian public prayer at state police events,” and that it “continues to divert our attention from the very critical issues facing our state government. Instead it leads us toward unnecessary religious clashes, demeans our Commonwealth’s Jeffersonian principles and creates an unwelcoming environment for the Commonwealth’s Jewish citizens and other religious minorities.”

Virginia just keeps on distinguishing itself; this week it was also revealed that the commonwealth’s new attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli – a rising star in the religious right cosmos – has censored the Roman goddess that appears on his office’s official seal.

Seems that the depiction of “Virtus” was a little too revealing for Cuccinelli’s taste; according to the Virginian-Pilot, his office is now using a different version of the seal that covers her up with a breastplate.

It’s nice to know Virginia – this blogger’s home – is heading in the direction of responsive, responsible government that puts first things first in the commonwealth’s priorities.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.