“We as Christians, We are Persecuted and Oppressed”

That was the entirely predictable message at yesterday’s press conference, organized by Chaps Gordon Klingenschmitt in Richmond, VA to protest the “forced resignations” of six police Chaplains who refused to deliver non-denominational prayers at department-sanctioned, public events:

The ministers and the Family Foundation of Virginia held a news conference yesterday to assail [state police Superintendent W. Steven] Flaherty’s directive and Kaine for backing it.

“The recent decision by Superintendent Flaherty and its subsequent endorsement by Gov. Kaine is an act of anti-Christian hysteria based on a flawed decision by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court that has yet to be upheld and is, in fact, in conflict with other circuit court decisions from around the country,” said Victoria Cobb, Family Foundation president. “The policy clearly violates the First Amendment-protected rights of free speech and religious freedom.”

Cobb and the ministers said that barring the state police chaplains from using the name Jesus Christ is, in effect, a violation of those chaplains’ rights because their religion calls upon them to pray to Jesus Christ.

“In our belief, it’s not even a complete prayer” without appealing to Jesus Christ, said Rev. Rob Schenck, of the National Clergy Council … [“So how do we end a prayer unless in the name of Jesus Christ? We are pleading with the governor . . . to reconsider the magnitude of this thing.”]

Former Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who said he was discharged from the Navy for praying to Jesus Christ, sent Kaine a letter signed by 86 ministers, asking him to revise the policy for state police chaplains.

Klingenschmitt told Kaine that the policy amounts to religious discrimination and “anti-Christian persecution.”

Hashmel Turner, the Fredericksburg councilman and minister whose prayers to Jesus Christ sparked the court case, attended yesterday’s press conference.

He said he has given up leading prayers before council meetings because of the court’s ruling.

“We as Christians, we are persecuted and oppressed,” Turner said. “We have to support these chaplains that are being persecuted.”

Those in attendance also announced that they intend to follow through on Klingenschmitt’s threat to hold a pre-election rally that “could impact the national election” and will be doing so with a “statewide prayer rally” outside the Executive Mansion on Nov. 1.