In Virginia, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors is under fire after prohibiting prayers invoking “neo-pagan, polytheistic, pre-Christian deities” that fail to fall within “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors limited opening prayers before public meetings to ordained leaders of monotheistic religions after denying a Wiccan’s request to be added to the invocation list.
The county denied the Wiccan’s request on the ground that Wicca is “neo-pagan and invokes polytheistic, pre-Christian deities,” and therefore it does not fall within “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
In response, the ACLU And Americans United issued a joint statement declaring that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that permits pre-meeting prayer does not authorize Chesterfield’s discriminatory policy, and that the Chesterfield County Board may not permit only ministers ordained by monotheistic religions to open meetings.
In a letter sent to the board, Americans United and the ACLU write that all faiths must have an opportunity to offer pre-meeting prayers in order for the board’s policy to comply with the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment requires governing bodies to allow everyone the chance to deliver prayers before official meetings,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “If they don’t, then what they’re doing is unconstitutional.”
ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga said: “Under our Constitution, we stand before our government as equals, regardless of religion. Chesterfield County may not make theological distinctions among its residents.”
The policy is blatant religious discrimination. By prohibiting prayers that fail to fall within “the Judeo-Christian tradition” the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors desecrate the U.S. Constitution, and the secular values for which it stands.
The simple fact is prayers of any kind have no place at government meetings. The recent disastrous Supreme Court decision allowing sectarian prayers at public meetings has emboldened Christian extremists. The court decision set a dangerous and disappointing precedent. The decision encourages extremists eager to transform this secular nation into a Christian theocracy.