Virginia official: Non-Christian public prayer violates my rights ‘because I don’t believe that’
A group that lost its U.S. Supreme Court case over prayer at public meetings said recent comments by a Virginia elected official illustrate the risk of allowing such sectarian invocations.
“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard,” said Al Bedrosian, who sits on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. “If we allow everything, where do you draw the line?”
The Republican said Monday, after the high court ruled 5-4 that legislative prayer did not violate the constitutional prohibition on government establishment of religion, that he would not vote to allow non-Christians to deliver invocations.
“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 said. “If we’re a Christian nation, then I would say that we need to move toward our Christian heritage.”
Those remarks echoed statements he made several years ago in an editorial published in the Roanoke Times, where he described freedom of religion as a “hoax” and claimed “the global warming crowd worships the environment as god, the abortionist has the death of unborn babies as their god, and the homosexuals have sexual freedom as their god.”
“The real battle is keeping the name of Jesus as Lord,” Bedrosian wrote in 2007. “The name Jesus is what makes us a Christian people and a Christian nation. This is why we must continue our heritage as a Christian nation and remove all other gods.”
That’s what Bedrosian intends to do in his position as county supervisor, saying he would reject any request by any non-Christian adherent to deliver a religious or secular invocation.
“I would say no,” Bedrosian said. “That does not infringe on their freedom of religion. The truth is you’re trying to infringe on my right, because I don’t believe that.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the plaintiffs in the recent Supreme Court case on public prayer, sent a letter to Roanoke County Attorney Paul Mahoney warning that the county risked a legal challenge if it implemented the policy proposed by Bedrosian.
“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,” the group said.
Mahoney said Friday he was still digesting the letter and would forward it to other members of the Board of Supervisors – some of whom have already said they would not go along with Bedrosian’s plan.
“It ain’t going to happen,” said Supervisor Jason Peters. “There’s no reason for this to be brought up and reoccur. I hate it for the county.”
Update: Bedrosian said Monday during a news conference that non-Christians would still be permitted to pray elsewhere under his proposal, and he said other supervisors could invite anyone they wanted to pray at public meetings.
Watch Bedrosian discuss his views during a campaign speech posted online by 2ndTCG: