The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog from Madison, Wis., and the largest association of agnostics and atheists in the nation, is telling police departments in Ohio and Alabama to stop proselytizing and start working.
Two separate situations occurred where police departments were using religion to "fight crime."
The Montgomery Police Department in Alabama received a letter from FFRF Staff Attorney Seidel protesting "Operation Good Shepherd," which attemps to lower the crime rate by converting people to Christianity. Operation Good Shepherd puts Christian pastors at crime scenes to counsel and pray with victims and witnesses. According to MPD officers, this program gives them an "evangelistic advantage." Media report evangelism is indeed a goal.
FFRF sent a letter on Oct. 9 to Police Chief Kevin J. Murphy: "This is a serious affront to both the Constitution, a document you are sworn to protect, and ignores sociological and criminological studies which show more religious societies have greater levels of violence."
Seidel wrote, "Jesus will not lower crime. Studies do not prove that religion causes all of society's ills, but it certainly seems like Operation Good Shepherd might be throwing gasoline on the fire."
FFRF officially asked that the MPD discontinue using its power to promote Christianity.
The Cincinnati Police Department in Ohio also received a letter from FFRF, chiding the department for teaming up with pastors and members of 25 local congregations to host a "prayer walk." According to Fox 19: Prayer walks took place in 15 different communities, although Cincinnati police appeared to be the only government body involved. These walks are supposed to continue every Saturday until Nov. 13.
Seidel sent a letter on Oct. 7 to Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell explaining why the police department's involvement is inappropriate government sponsorship and an endorsement of religion.
"Calling upon citizens to pray is coercive and beyond the authority of any government, let alone a law enforcement arm of the government. Citizens should not be made to feel offended, excluded, or like political outsiders because the police department they support their taxes with imposes religious ritual on them. Put simply, your office is misusing its secular power to call for religious rituals and exhort citizens, regardless of beliefs, to participate in prayer."
Compiled by Lauryn Seering