Valley Legislators Sign Amicus Brief in Public Prayer Case - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Valley Legislators Sign Amicus Brief in Public Prayer Case

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Virginia House of Delegates
Press Release


WEYERS CAVE – Del. R. Steven Landes, (R-Weyers Cave), along with Senator Emmett W.  Hanger, Jr, (R-Augusta County), and Delegates Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), Ben Cline (R-Amherst), and  Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) have signed on to the Amici Brief in Town of Greece v. Galloway, which  has now been filed with the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS). They joined with the  Virginia Christian Alliance and a number of other groups and legislators in a friend-of-the-court brief  filed with the United States Supreme court in the highly publicized public prayer case.

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to reevaluate its current framework for deciding  cases involving religious speech or symbols in public settings and to return to a historically correct  interpretation of the Establishment Clause to prohibit only government policies that coerce citizens  to support or practice religion. The legislators note that both sessions of the House and Senate in the  Virginia General Assembly are opened by prayer each day during session.

It is argued in the brief, that the Court's prevailing modes of Establishment Clause analysis,  which focus on whether a bystander might perceive a message of government "endorsement" of religion,  are at odds with the Clause's original meaning and result in censorship of religious speech by citizens and government officials. The brief also reminds the Supreme Court of America's religious heritage and points out that an intellectually honest application of the Court's modern Establishment Clause  doctrine would result in invalidation of countless national traditions and practices, including the Pledge of  Allegiance, various National Monument inscriptions, Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations, Supreme  Court opening traditions, the National Day of Prayer, and the national motto, "In God We Trust," which  is inscribed upon various government buildings and our currency. 

The prayer case arose out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which  held that the Town of Greece, New York, had created an unconstitutional "establishment" of religion by allowing local clergy members to offer invocations at town meetings on a voluntary, non-discriminatory  basis. The Court of Appeals held that this policy violated the Establishment Clause because, in fact, most  of the clergy members who volunteered for invocations represented the Christian faith.    

Landes represents the 25 Rockingham Counties. Hanger represents the 24 Staunton and Waynesboro, and part of Culpeper and Rockingham. Del. D. Bell represents the 20 District serving Highland, Staunton, Waynesboro, and part of Augusta and Nelson. Cline represents the  th  House District which serves Bath, Buena Vista, Lexington and Rockbridge, as well as part of  24 Amherst and Augusta. Gilbert represents the 15 and part of Rockingham and Warren.   th  House District, which includes parts of Albemarle, Augusta, and  th  Senate District serving Augusta, Greene, Madison,  th  House  th  House District serving Page and Shenandoah Counties and part of Rockingham and Warren.

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