FFRF ends proselytizing by police chief (March 5, 2012)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has stopped a City of Portage (Wis.) Police Chief from using his public position as a religious soap box.

The Police Chief used his employee email to distribute religious materials to his employees. He also sent employees bible verses, bibles and other devotional material. One such article was titled “Strength for Service to God and Country.” And another “The Connection between Spirituality and Policing.” In a Jan. 9 letter to the city administrator, FFRF Staff Attorney Stephanie Schmitt wrote: “It is grossly inappropriate for any government employee, especially the Chief of Police, to distribute religious messages to government employees.”

Adding to the Chief’s repertoire of egregious state/church abuses was the posting of religious messages in the Police Department lobby and his attendance at a bible study while on duty. He also opened a mandatory employee meeting with a Christian prayer. Under his direction employee “swearing in” ceremonies often included mention of “Jesus.” The Chief also maintained an employee prayer board for weekly prayer requests and religious articles.

Schmitt noted that “as the face of local police enforcement, the Chief of Police is charged with great responsibility and has been given significant trust by Portage’s citizens, including those citizens and employees who may not share his religious viewpoints.”

A city attorney replied to FFRF’s letter of complaint on March 5 stating that the Police Chief was “instructed to cease from religious displays or conduct that promotes or has the appearance of promoting sectarian beliefs while performing his duties as the Chief of Police.” 

Freedom From Religion Foundation