The Washington Post

McAuliffe plans to veto school prayer bill

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) plans to veto a school prayer bill should it come to his desk, spokesman Brian Coy confirmed, making the issue one of a few controversial topics where the new governor has staked out a position.

The proposed legislation, which passed the state Senate when the upper chamber was under Republican control, would codify students’ right to pray before, during and after school; organize prayer groups, clubs and events; wear religious clothing or accessories; and express religious viewpoints at school forums. It is currently in committee in the House of Delegates, where Republicans hold a large majority.

In previous years, Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to enshrine the right to prayer in schools and other public places through the state constitution. Constitutional amendments do not have to be signed by the governor, but they must be passed by the legislature both before and after an election before going to voters for ratification.

The current bill, introduced by four conservative senators, instead puts the right to pray in the code, and directs public schools not to regulate religious views in otherwise permissible speeches unless it is disruptive or obscene.

Critics of the proposed legislation have argued that the bill would be used to enshrine Christianity in schools and public life.

“This would be the first time” the issue had gone to the governor, said Sen. Charles W. Carrico (R-Grayson), who has for years advocated for explicitly allowing individuals to pray in public schools. “I guess he will just have to answer to the people as to why he’s doing it.”

During the campaign McAuliffe promised to be a “brick wall” against any new limits to abortion access in Virginia. But since taking office he has not weighed in regularly on legislation, saying that he will wait until bills come to his desk.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.