Having already upset Christian conservatives for vetoing a pair of bills liberalizing rules on public square proselytizing, Gov. Terry McAuliffe did so again after his administration initially told a National Day of Prayer group it couldn’t gather on state grounds when it wanted to.
That decision also alarmed the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, whose leader wants McAuliffe to revise what she deems constitutionally suspect regulations for demonstrations on Capitol Square.
Permits for rallies at Virginia’s seat of government are issued through the Department of General Services, and that’s who local Day of Prayer organizers applied to ahead of a faith-based event at noon on May 1.
The response: Noon won’t work because the public needs free access to that outdoor space during the lunch hour, but 1 p.m. is fine for a prayer ceremony.
Amid public pressure Friday afternoon, a McAuliffe spokeswoman said the rally would be allowed at noon.
The ACLU, which isn’t often aligned with the Family Foundation, is concerned for different reasons.
“The Capitol Square is a quintessential public forum,” ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastańaga said.
Her problems with the permit rules include restrictions on what space can be used and officials’ power to deny permission based on the content of the message
“The most effective location for protests against the government is often the seat of government itself
,” she added.