ACLU urges veto of Senate Bill 855 regarding National Guard chaplains, prayer
has sent a letter urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe
to veto Senate Bill
555. The bill severely undermines the religious freedom of rank and file National Guard
members by permitting military
chaplains, acting as government agents, to push their personal religious beliefs during official National Guard
“The institution of military
chaplains exists not to promote the free exercise
of chaplains, but to promote the free exercise
of service members,” said ACLU
Executive Director, Claire Gastañaga.
As the law stands, chaplains may conduct voluntary worship services for members of their own faith in whatever manner they see fit. They may also counsel members of their faith in their mutual religion
“We would not support any limitation of any person’s right to religious expression in an unofficial capacity,” continued Gastañaga. “However, a military
chaplain acting in their official role does not have the right to use official mandatory events as a platform to disseminate their own religious views.”
members required to attend any official event
have the right to not be subjected to a government actor’s personal religious beliefs. Courts have upheld military
chaplaincies because they “leave the practice of religion
solely to the individual soldier, who is free to worship or not as he chooses without fear of any discipline or stigma.” Katcoff v. Marsh, 755 F.2d 223, 231-32 (2d Cir. 1985).
“Vetoing Senate Bill
555 would ensure that the Virginia
National Guard’s military
chaplain system remains constitutional,” concluded Gastañaga.
to read the letter to Governor McAuliffe.