Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General Are Upholding Their Duty to Protect Religious Freedom in the Commonwealth

Christians, we need all the protections we can get. Let’s be thankful for Republican governors.

Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia is doing what he can. Part of a red wave that swept Republicans into the Virginia Governor’s, the Lt. Governor’s, and the Attorney General’s offices, Gov. Youngkin has signed bills that protect parents’ rights, banned “critical race theory” in government schools, rescinded COVID-19 vaccines for state employees, and more.

Now the governor has signed a bill into law to protect religious freedom, including “any outward expression of religious faith in contexts where discrimination on the basis of religion is prohibited” in public accommodations, employment, and housing.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor said that government officials have a duty to protect and promote religious freedom.

“HB 1063 provides a necessary and helpful clarification in the law to help ensure Virginians won’t face discrimination simply for outwardly expressing their religious beliefs. Virginia law forbids discrimination on the basis of religion in multiple contexts yet fails to define the actual term ‘religion,’ which can leave Virginians vulnerable to hostile reactions to expressions of their faith. We commend Gov. Youngkin and the Virginia General Assembly for resolving this ambiguity so that Virginians can freely live out their faith without fear of government punishment.”

In related news, which illustrates the point, a Virginia school district fired high school French teacher Peter Vlaming after he refused to refer to a female student with male pronouns. He did use the girl’s preferred name, but that wasn’t enough for leftist administrators.

Vlaming filed a lawsuit against the school district. After a lower court dismissed his case, Vlaming appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Virginia’s attorney general, Jason Miyares, submitted a brief (PDF – 60 pages) in support of Peter Vlaming on behalf of the Commonwealth. The district “terminated Peter Vlaming’s employment as a public-school teacher because he declined to express personal agreement with a message contrary to his deeply held religious beliefs.” By punishing Vlaming, the brief continues, “the School Board penalized Vlaming in his civil capacity as a teacher because of his religious beliefs.”

The state asked the court to consider the case in light of the Commonwealth’s constitution.

“Virginia’s broad protections of its citizens’ religious liberty—more extensive than the protections provided by the federal Constitution—are a product of Virginia’s pluralistic origins and tradition of equal opportunity for its citizens regardless of their beliefs. Thus, Virginia’s Constitution acknowledges the fundamental truth that ‘all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience’ and provides that no one ‘shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.'”

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