An elected official in Roanoke County, Virginia, claims only Christians should be allowed to deliver the official invocation before county meetings.
Roanoke County Supervisor Al Bedrosian (R) made national headlines last week after advocating for Christian only prayer at county meetings. Bedrosian made his controversial and divisive remarks after the recent and disastrous Supreme Court ruling finding that Christian prayers used to open government meetings are constitutional.
After the ruling, Bedrosian said:
The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard. If we allow everything, where do you draw the line?
I think America, pretty much from Founding Fathers on, I think we have to say more or less that we’re a Christian nation with Christian ideology. … If we’re a Christian nation, then I would say that we need to move toward our Christian heritage.
When asked if he would allow representatives from non-Christian faiths and non-faiths, including Jews, Muslims, atheists and others, Bedrosian said he likely would not.
Bedrosian’s remarks echo similar comments he made in an editorial published in the Roanoke Times in 2007. There he described freedom of religion as a “hoax,” claiming:
The real battle is keeping the name of Jesus as Lord. The name Jesus is what makes us a Christian people and a Christian nation. This is why we must continue our heritage as a Christian nation and remove all other gods.
Americans United advised that the recent comments made by Bedrosian suggesting that he would like to exclude non-Christians from offering pre-meeting invocations run counter to the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 5 ruling that permits local government boards to open their meetings with sectarian prayers.
“It’s no surprise that as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court kicked the door wide open for government-sponsored prayer, a local board would try to limit its prayers to Christians only,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This is why the decision is so troubling, and I can imagine we will be seeing a lot of ‘Christians only’ talk from local boards.”
Sadly, Rev. Lynn is correct. Bedrosian is but one of many Christian extremists that have been emboldened by the recent Supreme Court decision allowing sectarian prayers at public meetings.
Indeed, the court decision sets a dangerous and disappointing precedent. The decision only encourages ignorant and dangerous right wing Christian extremists like Bedrosian, extremists who are eager to transform this secular nation into a Christian theocracy.