Anti-Separation Amendment Advances In Virginia

In early February, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a constitutional amendment that would allow for government-sanctioned prayer and other religious displays in public schools and other public buildings.

The proposal, HJ 537, would alter the state’s constitution to “permit the exercise of religious expression, including prayer and ‘religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions’ on public property, including public schools….”

The Virginia delegates passed the measure by a 69-27 vote, sending it to the Senate for consideration. (Both houses of the legislature must pass amendments in two consecutive sessions before they are placed on the ballot.)

Del. Charles W. Carrico Sr., (R-Grayson) argued that the amendment was needed to help ease alleged oppression of Christians in the public square.

“America was founded on Christian beliefs,” said Carrico. “Christianity is the majority faith in this country and yet because the minority has said, ‘I’m offended,’ we are being told to keep silent.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State lambasted the Virginia delegates’ action and urged the state Senate to derail the measure.

“The Virginia delegates who are pushing this scheme have a shockingly ill-informed understanding of religious freedom,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a press statement regarding the vote. “This amendment would open a Pandora’s box of religious liberty problems. It is imperative for the Senate to reject this unwise plan.”