The Mansfield (Ohio) police department needs to get rid of its chaplaincy program at once, advises the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“Pastor Chad Hayes of Caesarea Baptist Church is the newest Mansfield police chaplain and his career path has included serving in law enforcement and as a Marine before accepting the Lord's calling,” begins a recent story in the local paper about the newly appointed chaplain.
The piece quotes Hayes as saying: “As long as God is in there and the story is saturated about Christ, and as long as he gets more of the glory than me, then that’s all right.”
And the reason that Hayes gives to the reporter for being in his line of work is quite illuminating.
“Hayes said he decided to become a pastor after getting out of the Marines in 2011, saying he had run from God’s calling long enough,” states the article. “‘I just knew the Lord was never going to leave me alone,’ he said with a smile.”
Pastor Hayes’ profile in the Mansfield News Journal illustrates why a religious chaplaincy is unsuitable for a governmental entity.
Police chaplaincies are unconstitutional, FFRF emphasizes.
“Government chaplains may only exist as an accommodation of a public employee’s religious beliefs when the government makes it difficult or impossible to seek out private ministries,” FFRF Legal Fellow Karen Heineman writes to Mansfield Police Chief Keith Porch. “In the case of police departments, there is no significant government burden on religious free exercise.”
Law enforcement agencies acting in their official capacities may not proselytize or promote religion, FFRF points out. Paid or not, chaplains are sponsored by the Mansfield Police Division. Government and religion do not mix — and going by the newspaper profile of the new chaplain, religion forms the overwhelming part of his worldview.
The Mansfield Police Division is also vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit. It is difficult to imagine Pastor Hayes ably assisting non-Christians. Thirty-seven percent of Americans are non-Christians, including the nearly 30 percent who now identify as religiously unaffiliated. This program discriminates by providing chaplains who are only equipped to handle the needs of some employees, alienating those who do not believe in “the Gospel.” Claims that someone is “in a better place” or that a god “works in mysterious ways” may be the bedrock of religious consolation but are meaningless and even offensive trivialities to nonbelievers.
The article notes that the new chaplain “said his prior experiences will hopefully allow him to help others.” Community resources or licensed therapists who have certification in victim counseling should be the first resort for those vulnerable people, not members of the clergy who hope to be helpful, FFRF contends.
FFRF is asking the Mansfield Police Division to discontinue the chaplaincy program and to provide secular support services instead.
“The very notion of a police chaplaincy tethered to a specific religion is way past its shelf life,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Governmental entities need to put in place a secular model for support and counseling.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 37,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,000 members and two chapters in Ohio. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.