FFRF denounces Minnesota sheriff’s office’s ‘Day of Prayer’

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter of complaint today to the Itasca County (Minn.) Sheriff’s Office after Chaplain Dale H. Kaiser sent an official letter advertising a Day of Prayer.

Kaiser’s letter was sent to Itasca County public safety, fire, and emergency services. “Our Land of the free and home of the brave appears to be on a course for a crash landing,” it declares. “It seems the evils our county was once protected from continue to invade our land.”

The letter was written in early November, and thus does not refer to the terrorist attacks in Paris or the Minneapolis police killing of Jamar Clark, a black man, on Nov. 15. Rather, it apparently references the recent shooting of Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Sandberg in St. Cloud, Minn., and general anti-law enforcement sentiment.

Kaiser cited the bible verse in which God tells King Solomon, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray to me and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.”

“The only answer our country has is God,” Kaiser pronounced. “It is up to us, his chosen, to stand up and pray for God to intervene, heal our country, and protect all our public safety officers.”

Kaiser explained that there will be a 24-hour prayer vigil at the Itasca Courthouse Law Enforcement Memorial tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 21, and invited the letter recipients and members of the public to come, “even if someone can only spare 5 minutes.” He concluded the letter offering “Gods’ [sic] Blessings.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliot objected to the planned vigil in a letter sent this morning to Itasca County Sheriff Victor Williams. “Not only is the County’s endorsement of this religious ritual and sectarian event unconstitutional, the inflammatory and proselytizing content in the letter is grossly inappropriate communications to be coming from a government office,” he said.

Elliott said the use of Itasca County resources to coordinate the event was unconstitutional. “While it would be appropriate for County staff to participate in a memorial event for fellow law enforcement officers, this all-day prayer and religious program is well beyond the bounds of what government officials may facilitate.”

Elliott also called for the chaplaincy position to be abolished. “Given the letter, the Sheriff’s Office is now aware that Rev. Dale Kaiser has used his position as ‘Itasca County Sheriffs’ Chaplain’ to proselytize. This cannot continue and the only proper response is to end the chaplaincy altogether,” he wrote. The letter asks for a response informing FFRF of the steps being taken to address these issues.

FFRF is a nonprofit state/church watchdog with more than 23,000 members nationwide, including over 500 members and a chapter in Minnesota.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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