The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling out a Connecticut police chief's rant against nonbelievers.
On Sept. 24, Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez addressed a crowd of about 50 people at a "police solidarity march."
"We need God in our lives," the media reported him saying. "The problems that we're having is because people have abandoned church, people have abandoned God, and that cannot happen . . . Let's bring God back in our lives, back in our church—bring our kids—in our city, in our schools—absolutely." And he then reportedly "advocated a lot more praying."
FFRF informs Perez that his diatribe is problematic on several levels.
"It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government cannot in any way promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes to Perez. "It is unconstitutional for government officials to use their government office to advance, promote or endorse one religion over another, or religion over nonreligion. You must keep your religion to yourself when acting in your official capacity as police chief."
Government officials can worship, pray, and participate in religious events in their personal capacities, FFRF adds. But they are not permitted to provide credibility or prestige to their religion by lending a government office and government title to religious events. Their office and title belong to "We the people," not the office's temporary occupant.
Plus, Perez's harangue fails as sociological analysis, too. If Perez wants people to be more religious to help alleviate crime, he is engaged in a futile exercise. Prayer cannot stop violence. In fact, scientific studies show that societies with less prayer have less violence.
"Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is deep and widespread," Professor Phil Zuckerman writes for the academic journal Sociology Compass in a synthesis of recent research. "And within America, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont and Oregon."
FFRF asks Perez to discontinue using his office to promote his personal religion and instead do something practical to prevent crime.
FFRF is a national nonprofit organization that protects the constitutional separation between state and church with more than 23,000 members across the country, including 200-plus in Connecticut.