Mississippi Police Department Inappropriately Entangled in Religion, Watchdog Charges

UPDATE: VIOLATION CORRECTED. The Chief of Police called the Foundation at 2:30 Central, Feb. 5, to report he removed the "Go Haiti" links from the police department's website.

On behalf of its membership in Gulfport, Miss., the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the Gulfport Police Chief demanding that the Gulfport Police Department immediately end its inappropriate relationship with the Christian ministry project "Go Haiti."

"Go Haiti," a venture of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Go Forth Ministries, has a religious mission: to rebuild a pastor's church, the Bethel Baptist Church, in Port-au-Prince. The ministry is trying to raise at least $20,000 for that purpose. The vast majority of Haitians are Roman Catholic.

The Police Department's Police Chaplain, also the ministry's "Missions Coordinator," wrote a fundraising letter for "Go Haiti," which reveals what it calls the ministry's "Real Mission": "It should be made clear to everyone involved, the primary goal of Go Forth Ministries is to always try and present Jesus Christ as the answer for this life and the next. We want to help our brothers and sisters in Christ and be a witness of Him to the lost."

Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president, pointed out: "While Go Forth Ministries is free to choose to fundraise to rebuild a church in the face of this national disaster, a disaster leaving millions of people starving, exposed and homeless, the Gulfport Police Department absolutely is forbidden to raise funds for or otherwise publicize fundraising for this Baptist church project, or for any other Christian ministry to Haiti."

The Gulfport Police Department's public endorsement of this expressly Christian ministry is irresponsible and inappropriate, FFRF charges.

The Foundation has asked that the Police Department immediately sever all ties, including removing all "Go Haiti" links from its website, and all other endorsement of the project.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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