State troopers resign over ban on praying in Jesus’ name

Six Virginia state troopers who serve as chaplains have resigned in light of a policy that would forbid them when praying publicly to pray in the name of Jesus or even so much as to mention His name. Another example of forced ecumenism, as syncretism becomes our new national religion.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

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  • EconJeff

    Good for them! Sometimes sticking to your beliefs is hard and I wish them the best of luck.

    understand that people in certain professions need comfort at times, but shouldn’t that be with their regular pastor? It’s not like these folks were stationed overseas.

    I’m not sure I get why we have publicly funded chaplains.

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  • Susan aka organshoes

    The chaplains weren’t prohibited from using explicitly Christian prayers in private counseling or private ceremonies; just public ones.
    Still…any chaplain worth his stole will resist generic prayers, as any Christian ought to avoid participation in them as well.
    Like Econ Jeff, I wonder at the use and value of publicly funded chaplains.
    Shouldn’t a person’s own pastor be free to visit a public facility, like a firehouse, to counsel or pray with those who desire it? Should the public dollar be required to pay for that?
    How would the superintendent who imposed the ban proceed should a Muslim firefighter demand designated prayer space, as is happening in some public colleges and universities?

  • Anon

    They need to sue. This is important. It is a violation of their unalienable rights, and of the very nature of chaplains.

    As to syncretism being the national religion, I don’t think so. I think it is philosophical materialism, as established by the Courts.

    America has had paid chaplains since the beginning, right on through the War for Independence and the framing of the Constitution. There is no legitimate basis for banning them or denying them their denominational particulars.

    This was founded as a Christian country, with the several States having their religious establishments, uninterfered with by the federal government.

  • EconJeff

    Anon @5: Just because we’ve had them doesn’t mean it is either right or that we should still have them.

    What is the “legitimate basis” for having them?

  • Don S

    EconJeff @ 2: Do you mean why do we have them at all, or why do we have them stateside? I can certainly understand why we have military chaplains, particularly for military personnel stationed overseas or in remote posts. I’m not sure why we need domestic chaplains in police and fire departments. There, it seems as if a person’s own clergy, or a rotation of community clergy, could suffice.

    However, when we do have them, there is no constitutional reason I can see for forbidding them from praying or otherwise leading worship according to the particulars of their faith practices and beliefs. The only issue would be whether there was discrimination as to which denominations/faiths were eligible for the positions.

  • Don S

    Actually, since you said in your post #2 “It’s not like these folks were stationed overseas.”, you probably already answered my question :).

  • J

    Econ Jeff @2 raises a compelling point. Why should we have publicly funded chaplains? Especially domestically, where one can easily receive spiritual counsel off the job from his or her pastor? I and my co-workers have no chaplains where we work.
    I think decisions like this ought to force us to think.

  • FW

    chaplains should never be supported by the state.

    our LC MS would do well to follow the fine example here of the WELS and fully support their own chaplains.

  • Michael the little boot

    Anon @ 5,

    “This was founded as a Christian country, with the several States having their religious establishments, uninterfered with by the federal government.”

    The language in the constitution is too vague to say this is the case. The most you can say is the nation was founded on the idea of religious freedom. Just because most people who worked on the constitution and signed it were Christians – or, at least, nominally so – doesn’t mean they intended the nation to be a Christian one. I think the idea of “unity in diversity” applies here, though it was not a phrase used at the time.

  • Michael the little boot

    J @ 9 and FW @ 10,

    Amen. Go on, preach.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Anon, if it was, which is wasn’t, it now isn’t.
    You shouldda left that horse in the barn. It’s very lame.
    Religious, yes–in temper, not in law–but not Christian.

  • Michael the little boot

    Amen, Susan. Even though Lutherans don’t ordain women, you should keep preaching, too.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Susan (@4), according to that article (leaving alone for the moment the question of whether CBN is a good news source), Christian prayers weren’t prohibited in public, either: “the state police superintendent, asked chaplains to offer only non-denominational prayers for public events and ceremonies,” yes, but “One trooper was left with the impression that mentioning the name of Jesus was not allowed – a claim police spokeswoman Corinne Geller denies” (emphasis mine).

    At this point, we need more details on the definition of “non-denominational”, which is, as always, an almost meaningless term. It’s not clear what would or would not be allowed under this new rule.

    FW (@10), you said what I was going to say. Well, mostly. The reason WELS supports their own chaplains is because of their understanding of the doctrine of fellowship from the Bible. But I don’t believe a WELS pastor would be very likely to participate in this or any similar domestic chaplain program.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    fw,
    The only problem with the WELS plan is the chaplains can’t get on base, or the battlefields where they are needed most.
    The Chaplaincy is though in deep trouble all the way around. Most of the Chaplains are clueless on this. I did four years as a Chaplain Candidate and would have become one if the congregation I got assigned to out of Seminary didn’t need a pastor to be around as much as it did. I suppose that was God’s hand pulling me around. But during those four years I noticed huge infringements on freedom of religion. Somehow, I am supposed to protect freedom of religion for the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines, by letting the head chaplain walk all over mine. That was the impression I got.
    Even at that time there was a push to not use the name of Jesus in a prayer. They weren’t worried about offending the 99 Christians, just the one muslim in the crowd. Some chaplains thought they got around it by saying “in his most holy name.” Just added to the general impression that the chaplains were spineless, conviction less, and sell outs.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    The world is such a mixed-up place: Canada is generally perceived as liberal, but in my kids public, non-Catholic school the start every morning by reciting The Lords’ Prayer. Ok – SK isn’t exactly Vancouver/Toronto, but all the same. Now in other things, Canada is much more “liberal” than the US. But certainly not consistently.

  • http://www.gethsemanelutheranchurch.org Greg DeVore

    tODD- The use of the term non-denominational is odd. I wish I had read your post on this here before I posted on this over at Get Religion. Good post!
    What Christian denomination objects to this prayer formula?
    The term non-denominational arose in a Christian context to mean something like generic Christianity. Non-sectarian would make more sense but what could that possibly mean?
    How can a prayer not reflect the beliefs about God of the one praying? Veith is right, to regulate the content of prayer is to regulate the faith of the one praying. Where religous diversity makes such prayers problematic the solution is to dispense of the prayers. Why do we need prayers at non-religous events? We should either let the designated pray-ers pray according to their conscience or not have the prayers at all.

  • Anon

    EconJeff, that troops need chaplains, especially in times of war.

    Michael, the Constitution is not the only document from the colonization and founding of this independent Republic. You would do well to start with the Mayflower Compact, the constitutions of the several colonies, the writings of the founders and framers, the practices of General Washington in the field and as President, the actions and words of even Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Much of what is in school textbooks these days frankly consists of a tissue of lies, but if you read the primary source documents, you will get a clearer picture.

    Susan, sounds like you could do some reading as well. But I think you like to read, anyway :-)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    tODD #15:
    I didn’t use the CBN link, but the link to the Washingto Post.
    But now that I’ve read the CBN article, I’m really confused about what the directive could’ve said or meant.
    Anyways, it looks like it was a pre-emptive move by the Super., since, and I quote the Post:
    ‘…his decision was in response to a recent federal appeals court ruling that a Fredericksburg City Council member may not pray “in Jesus’s name” during council meetings because the opening invocation is government speech.’
    Looks to me like the Super. was doing his job, maybe knowing it was only a matter of time before his dept. was next.
    Fwiw, I think Christian uproar over restrictions on public prayers is a waste of outrage. Such outrage is hardly tantamount to standing for the faith, especially when churches themselves often do a poor job of guarding the faith–of being faithful to the scriptures, and of being Christ’s church.
    And such actions by the state are hardly incursions into freedom of religion.

  • EconJeff

    Sorry for a late post (weekend and all):

    War is somewhat different; those men and women are not near any regular support structure and making a pastor available makes sense. It doesn’t follow, however, that the state should be providing that service. A better set up, to me, would be for churches to provide a minister, pay him (or her) on their own, and the military just given him (or her) the opportunity to preach, comfort, do what they do. What types of services are offered is also questionable. Should that service include a ship-wide prayer? Probably not, in my view, since I’m not about the syncretism. They can say private prayers or prayers with groups of people of the same faith.

    There is no reason why the chaplain of faith A should be expected to comfort a person of faith B using either faith B’s structure or a generic formula. That cannot be expect of the person of faith A and it is probably not very comforting to the person of faith B.

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