Discontinue chaplaincy program, FFRF urges Wash. sheriff’s office

The blatant promotion of religion and Christianity in a Washington police department must end, asserts the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned Spokane County employee has informed the state/church watchdog that the county has instituted a chaplaincy program targeting law enforcement. The chaplains have also been sending out newsletters to every county employee. These emails and newsletters promote Christianity and include preaching, proselytizing and religious devotionals. The October newsletter’s theme was “The Battle Belongs to The Lord.” It included multiple bible verses, such as:

This is what the LORD says to you: `Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’ 2 Chronicles 20:15b
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

The October newsletter also includes a religious devotional and proselytizing:

We see in our selected verse today how we can maintain our needed strength and resiliency, day in and day out. Psalm 144:1 tells us this; “Praise be to The Lord my rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

Who trains us? God Himself. What for? All types of war and battle. Friends, remember that it is God Who ultimately trains us and equips us, in every way, for all types of battle and every challenge and/or conflict that we will ever face.

The verse that ties into this is from Matthew 6:33, and tells us; “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well.“ I tell you this, that if we faithfully seek God and His wisdom in all that we do, we can be successful in every area, one step at a time. Amen.

Blessings from Above, Chaplain Robert Kinnune

A review of previous newsletters reveals that they have also included bible quotes, Christian religious references and proselytizing. For instance, the May newsletter included a Christian devotional.

“Police chaplaincies are unconstitutional,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

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. However, Spokane County and the Sheriff’s Office do not place any burden on employees or the public, so there is no need for the county to provide chaplains for them, FFRF stresses. And the employment of chaplains demonstrates endorsement of religion, in this case, Christianity, which violates the Constitution.

The Spokane Police Department is also vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit due to the chaplaincy, FFRF cautions. The police department serves all Spokane County citizens regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. Nonreligious Americans make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 31 percent of Spokane County residents are religiously unaffiliated. 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 hurtful trivialities to nonbelievers.

Spokane County must discontinue its chaplaincy program, FFRF advises. The best approach is to provide secular support services and to leave determinations on religious support to individuals.

“As recent surveys have confirmed, populations around the country are becoming increasingly non-Christian and nonreligious,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Spokane Police Department needs to police itself better and stop anointing chaplaincies that push a particular religion on police officers and the public.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,500 members and two chapters in Washington, including the Inland Northwest Freethought Society based out of Spokane. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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