Bill would have allowed proselytizing at mandatory National Guard events
Richmond, VA -- The ACLU of Virginia applauds Governor Terry McAuliffe’s veto of Senate Bill 555, which would have allowed National Guard chaplains to proselytize to unwilling service members.
“While purporting to protect the religious freedom of chaplains, this bill would have undermined the religious freedom of service members,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The purpose of military chaplains is to give service members opportunities to practice their own religion, not to give chaplains opportunities to seek converts from among the ranks."
The bill provided that “the religious content of sermons made by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard . . . shall not be censored or restricted by any state government official or agency, so long as such content does not urge disobedience of lawful orders.” It would have allowed chaplains to promote their own religious views at mandatory events or while counseling guard members of different religions. Currently, chaplains may express their views at voluntary worship services and while counseling those who share their faith, as well as privately in an unofficial capacity.
“By vetoing this bill, the Governor has ensured that all service members may exercise their religion freely, without coercion,” said Gastañaga.
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The ACLU’s letter to the Governor urging him to veto the bill can be read here.
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