Virginia Officials: No Followers of ‘Pre-Christian Deities’ Can Offer Prayers
The ACLU sent a letter Thursday to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, which had limited opening prayers to ordained leaders of monotheistic religions.
“The First Amendment requires governing bodies to allow everyone the chance to deliver prayers before official meetings,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “If they don’t, then what they’re doing is unconstitutional.”
A state appeals court upheld the county’s policy in a 2005 ruling, and the board has invited local clergy whose names are drawn from an official county list.
Almost all of those religious leaders have represented Christian denominations, and the county has denied a Wiccan’s request to be added to the list.
Officials defended that decision, saying the “neo-pagan” faith does not fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition and “invokes polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.”