Our Forefathers, Faith and State Troopers

I was talking to Pastor Jon the other day (he’s my daddy), and he told me he recently testified in front of a house sub-committee regarding whether State Trooper Chaplains have the right to pray publicly according to their faith.

My dad, in good liberal fashion (he makes me proud), was testifying against the bill… with members of the Jewish community and the ACLU on his side. The bill was up for vote as a result of the fact that recently, the superintendent of state troopers in Virginia stopped all chaplains who were employed by the state police from public prayer in Jesus’ name…  instead requesting that all prayers remain non-denominational.

This resulted in 6 of 17 chaplains resigning their positions in protest. 

The issue was therefore put to a vote, and the bill passed despite the efforts of my father and others like him.

I’ve always been fascinated with the notion of separation of church and state, and what, exactly, it means.

I am reminded of my junior year of high school, when some officials were desperately attempting to gain support for “bringing God back into our schools”. Naturally, with my father being a minister, people were counting on his support.

However my dad, I’m proud to say, disappointed each and every one of them.

Prayer has no place in public school districts or public government activities… especially when the prayer is exclusive to one single religion.

Period.

I, like all Americans, have the right to enjoy the freedom to practice my religion… and I have the right to do so without interference or discrimination from my government-  so says the First Amendment of my Constitution.

Anyone who honestly believes that mixing Christianity- or any faith, for that matter- with government functions equals freedom of religion is delusional- and likely a cocky evangelical Christian.

By my estimation, our forefathers knew exactly what they were doing.

Having narrowly escaped religious persecution themselves, they made it clear in our Constitution that absolute religious liberty was a fundamental right for all U.S. Citizens.

How is it that a Jew, a Hindu or a Muslim can enjoy that sort of freedom if Jesus Christ is constantly being shoved down their throats?

Ours is a nation that was supposed to have been built on tolerance and freedom.

The United States of America was created on the principle that no one- regardless of their religious beliefs- would ever be made to feel unwelcome.

It saddens me, this unrelenting push from the Evangelical right, to include their God in each and every function of our government.

Certain Christians will claim that they are the ones being persecuted… that the current drive to take religion out of our schools is an act of discrimination in and of itself.

To those people, I say spend a day as a Muslim, or a Jew.

Attend your child’s “Christmas Concert” as a non-Christian… where they sing nothing but “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Silent Night”, and “O’ Holy Night”…

… Then tell me that you feel as if you and your faith have been respected and included.

Many people- friends of mine- who disagree with me, back their arguments up by saying if they were to attend a public function in a Middle-Eastern country, where religion is part of the every day government and public activities, they would not feel offended by prayers to Allah… they would expect such a thing to occur, and would understand that this is the way business is conducted there…

… Therefore, they claim, non-Christians shouldn’t feel offended to hear prayers to Jesus Christ in the U.S.

To those people, I remind them that we are a secular country. Our nation was founded on non-religious principles… our founding fathers fought and died so that people of all faiths could come together as one, being equal partners- citizens- enjoying equal rights- within the same great country.

As Americans, we are not given the task of merely tolerating those of different faiths…

… We are to embrace them.

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9 thoughts on “Our Forefathers, Faith and State Troopers

  1. Why is it that you think the State Trooper Chaplains don’t have any rights? They are also protected by the First Amendment. They are not telling you to worship through Jesus. There is a reason there are Chaplains from different faiths. If a group or family wants a Muslim Chaplain, then they can have one. You can’t ask a Muslim Chaplain to say in Jesus name any more than you can ask a Christian Chaplain to say that a prayer is according to Muhammad in second person not by his name but by the appellations prophet, messenger, servant of God (‘abd), announcer (bashir). Let the individual religions be free and don’t try to use the 1st Amendment as a weapon to attack Christianity. Christians and Muslims can understand each other without people such as yourself getting involved. You have no faith and I don’t expect you to understand. Just know that I have friends of Islam and they respect my faith and I do theirs. You sound like a person with no faith hiding behind a disguise of Christianity. I’ll pray for you and I’ll ask my Muslim brothers to do the same.

    1. Hi SpiritOfTruth,

      Contrary to your comment on my post, I do have faith. I am a Christian- Protestant- and I am the daughter of a minister. I never said Chaplains have no rights, nor did I say I expected a Chaplain to pray in the name of Allah, or according to anyone else’s faith. What I said was that it is not appropriate, in a public forum, for anyone to do anything that excludes anyone of any faith. I don’t feel that Christians should be excluded, nor do I feel that Muslims or Jews should be excluded.

      What I find humorous is the fact that because we do not see eye to eye on this issue, you automatically assume I have no faith.

      You have perfectly illustrated my point.

      You attempt to ostracize- and therefore exclude- people like me, that do not share your views.

      You know nothing about me, but feel comfortable in saying I have no faith- and have formed this opinion only becasue I do not share your opinion.

      Unfortunately, your post is the perfect illustration of closed-minded hypocrisy. You certainly cannot truly claim to respect those of varying spiritual backgrounds while simultaneously making the case as to why it’s appropriate to shove YOUR views down their throats.

      Regardless, thanks for weighing in.

  2. I appreciate that you responded to my comment, thank you for that. I am simply saying that the State forcing or controlling how someone prays is a violation of their 1st Amendment Right. The State or Federal Government has no authority to do such a thing. Wanting Chaplains to pray is fine. However, they have no authority to dictate that prayer. The military Chaplains are a perfect example. There are some that will do Muslim services, some Jewish, some Christian, and some all. If the Muslim Soldiers do not feel comfortable with a regular Chaplain leading their service, they can request a different Chaplain. Fact of the matter is, some religions are just to different to have one Chaplain handle them all. That is life and is something the military has come to understand a long time ago. If someone does not believe in Jesus, hearing his name in a prayer does not constitute shoving a VIEW down their throat. I’ve personally spent a lot of time in the Middle East so I do know what it is like. I know that I should not eat in public or drink anything in public during the month of Ramadan. When the prayer services are happening, I know not to walk on the side of their Mosque مسجد‎ facing Mecca. There are just some things that can’t be avoided. I have spent years living with Muslims in their land. What I have learned is that you can’t grant our government the authority to control prayer. It may be in your interest now but, what happens when they determine that it is offensive to not refer to Muhammad in the prayers. Its to late now because you have given them that power. If the prayer of that particular Chaplain is offensive to someone, they have the right to leave or pray their own prayer. The fact of the matter is a Chaplain is an individual and is not a Church. You are correct in saying that I am ostracizing you. I am not excluding you though. I am ostracizing you for being a Christian that wants to remove Christ Jesus from prayer. Your history and who raised you does not mean anything. I’m sorry to say that but, it is the truth. Even Lucifer knows the bible word for word. I understand that your father is a Minister, this does not grant you any more authority on the issue than me or anyone else. Perhaps an answer to this would be to have a different prayer by a Muslim or Jewish Chaplain with the Christian one. This would solve the issue wouldn’t it? If people are still offended, those people are the issue. They need to learn to be tolerant of other people’s faiths. I’m not questioning your faith, I’m asking you to question it yourself. Can I ask you a personal question? I don’t expect you an answer if you don’t want to. Do you believe that people can go to Heaven without the Lord?

  3. SpiritOfTruth-

    I can appreciate your view, though I respectfully disagree with your opinions.

    I was not claiming that I have any authority on the subject of Christianity by explaining that I am a Christian, raised by a protestant minister.

    I was simply disputing your blanket statement that I have no faith. Not only do I have faith, but I was raised with it, and it has been a part of my life for my entire life. That was the point I was attempting to make.

    I find it much like comparing apples and oranges when people, in an attempt to defend public prayer in the U.S., reference the Middle East as an example… as in, “in the Middle East, I know not to do this or that, or eat this or that, or I wouldn’t get offended if they reference Allah, etc”. The Middle East is not comprised of secular nations. Their governments are completely intertwined with the Nation of Islam.

    The United States is not a Christian nation, not in the same sense that Iraq or Iran are Muslim nations. In fact, that is the exact thing we are trying to avoid.

    In response to your question, I guess I would need some clarification as to what you mean. I believe people can go to Heaven without believing in the Lord. I believe God judges us based on the love in our hearts, not by the name we choose to call him- be it God, Allah, Yehweh or anything else.

    For example, I do not believe people like Ghandi are in hell. Ghandi, obviously, was not a Christian, but has done more good for this world, and had more love in his heart than most.

    Is it possible that he will not go to heaven, but seasoned killers, people on death row who have done nothing but hurt and kill- but have found Jesus in their final days- will?

    I doubt that very much.

    My God is a loving God. He saved us all- through the sacrifice of his son- more than 2,000 years ago. As a result, there is nothing we can do to lose his love, and there is nothing we can do to truly deserve it.

    I do not want to remove Christ Jesus from prayer. I include Christ in my prayers each and every day. I am saying that prayers should not be said to in Jesus’ name at public, government sponsored functions. A non-denominational prayer will suffice- at the end of the day, I know who I am praying to- as does my God.

    In fact, he appreciates that I support the right of others’ to do the same- even if they do call him by a different name.

    I sooo did not intend for that to rhyme, but I’m sure you catch my drift.

    Again, we will likely never see eye to eye on this issue- but I do appreciate your views, and if nothing else I truly respect someone who, like me, is not afraid to express their views, and disagree here and there.

    It’s healthy.

  4. C Haze
    We may have some disagreement on Salvation. However, I would say that we disagree in theory only. It would be foolish to say I know Gods plan.

    On forcing Chaplains to Change…I would have to ask the Lord for Forgiveness if my actions resulted in a Chaplain doing something they thought was fundamentally against their religion. Why should my sensibilities weight more than the Chaplains faith? I am in total understanding of your view. Correct me if I’m wrong in laying out the points of your argument. The Chaplain is representing the State. The State is separated from the Church. The State can not through the Chaplain be tied to one particular faith.
    We have to go back to why the Church is separated from the State. In the past the Church was able to influence the State and the State influence the Church. The two are separated for a reason. We are and our laws are absolutely based in Judeo-Christian values. This much can’t be denied by any scholar of history.

    Our points are very interesting. You say the separation of Church and State limits what the Chaplain can say in prayer.

    I say the separation of Church and State is the reason why the State has no legal authority to limit what a Chaplain can say in prayer.

    For me it is as simple as this, if the State request the services of a Chaplain, the State has the right to ask how the prayer will happen. If the State doesn’t approve, they can find another Chaplain. If there are no Chaplains willing to pray in the manner the State finds acceptable, then there will be no Chaplain. If the people of that State are offended by the fact that there was no prayer, they will vote in new leadership that better represent their values and needs.

    Please don’t think we can never see eye to eye on this issue. I agree that you can have a general prayer to God. I just don’t think the State has any say in how a Chaplain prays. If I am in a room full of people who do not believe in God or are of a different faith, I won’t make a spectacle of my prayer. If they ask me to pray for them, I will pray in the manner the Lord has taught me. I will honor request and do my best to be gentle to their needs. In the end, I am praying to my God and I will not offend slight God. If the group knows my faith and does not agree with it, they should not ask me to pray for them a certain way.

    There is a lot we talked about and I look forward to future conversations with you. I believe our fundamental difference is in the interpretation of the Constitution. I will pray that it is Gods will the Constitution continues to be interpreted in the manner that allows Chaplains to pray according to their faith. I also hope that it remains only a suggestion and not a law that Chaplains pray in a non-denominational way. This will retain the Chaplains First Amendment rights and allow them to pray according to their faith.

    I thank you very much for engaging in this healthy debate. I understand that we may not reach agreement, I am more interested in others who read this.
    P.S. If you are ever interested in knowing who I am, just let me know and I will give you my email.
    Thanks and may God bless you for this conversation.

  5. Hi SpiritOfTruth-

    I would be happy to know who you are- healthy debates are always a good thing, and quite frankly, as you can see from my blog itself, sparking a good debate is a hobby of mine.

    It is my understanding, from researching the issue with the Chaplains, that a state law was passed by the House in Virginia, allowing Chaplains to continue praying in Jesus’ name in public forums.

    I do agree with you on one important point- no one- not the government, not anyone, can dictate WHO a chaplain prays to. Like you mentioned- one cannot expect a Muslim chaplain to pray in Jesus’ name any more than one can ask a Christian chaplain to pray to the Muslim God Allah.

    My argument was strictly related to public events, such as fund raisers that the State Troopers were sponsoring. It is in that forum that I feel the only appropriate prayer is a non-denominational one.

    That being said, a large part of a Chaplain’s job- at least a police Chaplain- is to accompany officers to hospitals, homes, etc, notifying next of kin of horrific tragedies that have fallen on their loved ones.

    I would never suggest, if a grieving family member asks for a Chaplain to pray with/for them, in the privacy of their home, or in the privacy of a hospital room- or anywhere else for that matter- that the Chaplain not be allowed to pray with/for that person.

    That is a large part of their job- and in a private setting, their hands should not be tied. They should be free to pray with their entire heart and soul to their God- either with or on behalf of the person who requested the prayer to begin with.

    So I just wanted to clarify- I only take issue with public prayer at open, government sponsored events- and only then take issue when it is offered up at such events to one God/denomination/faith over another.

    Looking forward to other conversations with you!

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