- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, in unusually strong terms, blasted Republican House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith for spreading “misinformation” regarding the new Virginia State Police policy requiring only nondenominational prayers at department-sanctioned public events and ceremonies.

“The press release that you distributed [Wednesday] concerning [Superintendent Col. W. Steven] Flaherty’s directive to his department’s chaplains contained a great deal of misinformation,” wrote Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, in a letter late Thursday to Mr. Griffith, who represents Salem.

“My office gave no directive to the state police; there is no mandate prohibiting police chaplains from mentioning Jesus Christ. No one has lost their jobs or positions because of this. All of which was stated or implied in your press release.”

The governor also chided Mr. Griffith for not bringing the issue up “in person the day before, during or after the lengthy meeting we were at together.”

Mr. Kaine said Col. Flaherty, who handed down the directive earlier this month, did so in response to a recent ruling from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that dealt with sectarian prayers offered at meetings of the Fredericksburg City Council.

The original press release from Mr. Griffith’s office, titled “Kaine administration prohibits State Police chaplains from mentioning Jesus Christ,” was sent out to reporters Wednesday afternoon and described the governor’s administration as requiring “those troopers to disregard their own faith.”

Mr. Griffith on Friday defended his press release in a letter to Mr. Kaine, writing: “There is not one inaccuracy in the news release, nor is there a single point in your letter demonstrating one.”

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was too narrow for Mr. Kaine to apply to all cases of government-related prayers, he said.

“As potential appeals in this case have yet to be exhausted, and because of the limited nature and scope of the decision, applying this ruling in a sweeping manner to every government agency and employee is, in my opinion, reckless,” Mr. Griffith said.

Col. Flaherty requested that Virginia State Police chaplains refrain from using denominational prayers at public events, a request decried by a number of House Republicans as a violation of the First Amendment and an attack on Christianity. Delegate Charles W. “Bill” Carrico Sr., Grayson Republican, said chaplains were told they could not invoke the name of Jesus, but a state police spokeswoman denied the assertion.

State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said earlier this week that the colonel did not consult with Mr. Kaine before issuing the request. She said the decision was “an internal matter” and “exclusively that of Colonel Flaherty.”

As a result of the request, six of the Virginia State Police’s 17 chaplains resigned from their voluntary positions but remain on the police force.

State police chaplains are sworn department personnel who are on duty and paid while performing in that capacity.

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