Virginia Lawmaker Doesn't Want Non-Christian Prayers at Public Meetings

| by Michael Allen

Al Bedrosian, one of Roanoke County’s Board of Supervisors, wants to exclude non-Christians from delivering prayers during invocations before county meetings.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that religious prayers could be spoken before government meetings, but the Virginia lawmaker is taking it one step further, notes the Friendly Atheist.

“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard,” Bedrosian said during a Board of Supervisors meeting last Monday. “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,” added Bedrosian. “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 people from non-Christian faiths to say an opening prayer before county meetings, Bedrosian said he likely would not, but added that other county supervisors could invite whomever they wanted to speak, reports The Roanoke Times.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said that Bedrosian’s proposal has been given some support by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“You can see the damage the Supreme Court has done today just by that quote alone,” stated Gaylor. “It’s hard for me to believe that if that had come out of Dearborn and they were having exclusively Muslim prayer, that the Supreme Court would have reached the same conclusion.”

In response to this possible plan, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to Roanoke County Attorney Paul Mahoney that read:

Although upholding the challenged prayer policy, the Court also made clear that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits legislative bodies from excluding non-Christian prayer givers or otherwise discriminating in selection.

“I’m still digesting it,” Mahoney told The Roanoke Times last Friday. “I want to forward it to the members of the board and just want to see what their reaction is and in which direction they want to go.”

Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe McNamara said he did not agree with Bedrosian’s Christian-only proposal.

“I think the policy that Roanoke County has in place currently, I think it’s fair,” said McNamara. “I think it respects all religions, and I think it’s appropriate for us to follow the policy in place going forward.”

“It ain’t going to happen,” added Roanoke County Supervisor Jason Peters. “There’s no reason for this to be brought up and reoccur. I hate it for the county.”

Sources: Friendly Atheist and The Roanoke Times