by Allie Martin and Jody Brown
(AgapePress) – A 50-year-old tradition of saying grace before supper is under attack at the Virginia Military Institute but the school plans to fight back.
Two cadets at the four-year, state-sponsored military college in Lexington claim that saying grace before dinner is immoral. So they have sued to have the prayers stopped, and they are being backed by the American Civil Liberties Union in their legal challenge. The American Center for Law and Justice will help VMI defend the lawsuit. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel with the ACLJ, says the daily prayers which take place in the mess hall are protected by the Constitution.
“These are adults. They don't have to go to VMI if they don't want to, and we think that it's a long-standing tradition at VMI … that's part of the heritage of that institution,” Sekulow says. “That somebody objects to something that they disagree with is not a basis for censorship.”
Sekulow, who has sparred with the ACLU many times over the issue of public prayer, says the lawsuit is part of an intense effort by the ACLU to eliminate public prayer.
“They're saying that any time, even when you're dealing with adults, that you have a state-sponsored institution that engages in religious activity, that it should be off-limits,” he says. “[In our view] that's a misreading of the First Amendment.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley has also offered his assistance to defend any court challenge from the ACLU. “The Supreme Court has never said adults assembled for an official meal on a college campus may not hear a blessing offered for that meal,” Earley said.
Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose ministry is based in nearby Lynchburg, Virginia, calls the lawsuit “a typical action by the ACLU” and the group's claims “pretty farfetched.”
“For years, the organization has been on a fanatical quest to purge virtually every remnant of religion from the American public square. In the years since this pursuit of a godless society began to gain steam, we have seen a subsequent collapse in morality, honor, and virtue in our nation,” Falwell says. “And I do not believe this is a coincidence.”
Falwell also commends VMI's superintendent, Major General Josiah Bunting, for standing up the ACLU's threats and promising to continue the prayer tradition.
(This update courtesy of Agape Press.)