Everyone’s favorite county supervisor, Al Bedrosian of Roanoke, Va., simply will not give up on the idea that America was founded as a “Christian nation.” But as Bedrosian discovered recently, his zeal for a Christians-only government is not going over well even with his fellow Republicans.
During a Monday news conference in which Bedrosian sought to wring every last second from his 15 minutes of fame, he reiterated his belief that county board meetings should start only with invocations delivered by Christians and that he is empowered to exclude other faiths from participating.
“Whether someone is invited to pray or chant in our meetings has nothing to do with our freedom to pray in America,” Bedrosian said, according to the Roanoke Times.
He added that non-Christians are free to have their prayers heard elsewhere besides board meetings.
Bedrosian has been on an extended rant ever since the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 that local government boards have the right to open their meetings with sectarian prayers. After that decision was announced, Bedrosian said the ruling “proved” America is meant to be a “Christian nation” and he was going to bar anyone who isn’t Christian from saying a pre-meeting prayer.
“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,” Bedrosian told the Times last week. “If we’re a Christian nation, then I would say that we need to move toward our Christian heritage.”
When Americans United got wind of this plan, we sent a letter to the county board instructing that the board of supervisors may not change its current non-sectarian prayer policy to one that permits only Christians to deliver official invocations before meetings, even in the wake of the Town of Greece v. Galloway decision.
“In vowing to discriminate against non-Christians, Supervisor Bedrosian ignores what the Supreme Court actually said in Galloway,” the letter said. “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.”
Fortunately other leaders in Roanoke sought to distance themselves from Bedrosian – even his fellow Republicans.
Former Roanoke County Republican Party Chairman Mike Bailey said Bedrosian is off base and does not speak for the GOP.
“I don’t want to get into this, but America is not a Christian nation,” Bailey wrote in an email to the other members of the Board of Supervisors. “Our founding fathers wanted America to be a nation of freedom built upon Christian values. There is a difference. I hope Roanoke knows that Al does not speak for the Republican Party on this issue.”
Roanoke County Republican Committee Chairman David Suetterlein also declined to adopt Bedrosian’s extreme position, saying correctly that the First Amendment protects everyone.
Two other Republicans on the board – Chairman Joe McNamara and Supervisor Jason Peters – have also said they do not agree with Bedrosian’s discriminatory viewpoint.
“We’re totally against it,” Peters said. “I am Christian, and I don’t hide behind that, but I’m both offended and it bothers me that he’s misrepresenting the Christian community.”
Peters also told the Times that Bedrosian has embarrassed Roanoke County.
No argument there. Bedrosian is woefully uninformed about the U.S. Constitution, which does not allow any government to adopt a Christians-only policy.
Instead of holding press conferences that make him look like a clueless extremist, maybe Bedrosian should spend some time reading about the First Amendment.