In Alabama, Jesus rides with the cops—and taxpayers foot the bill

This is unbelievable, but apparently in Alabama (where else?) the police carry pastors in their cruisers and allow them to proselytize crime and disaster victims. This is verbatim from a letter sent out by David Silverman, president of the American Atheists:

The religious extremists have crossed the line again. Imagine you were just the victim of a crime. You’re traumatized. You see someone step out of a police car and start to walk toward you. He flashes his police-provided ID card and ducks under the crime scene tape. He sits next to you as you think, “Who is this guy? A social worker? A crisis counselor?”

But when he opens his mouth, you find out right away that he is neither of these. He begins to tell you about God’s plan as he takes your hands and prays for you to come to Jesus.

Shockingly, this isn’t imaginary at all. In Montgomery, Alabama—the capital city with a population of 200,000—the police department has started a new program called “Operation Good Shepherd.” The program trains evangelical Christian pastors, using tax dollars, to ride along with police officers and gives them access to crime scenes in order to preach Christianity explicitly while people are vulnerable.

That’s right. And they’re not even trying to hide it. Official police chaplain E. Baxter Morris told The Atlantic, “Anytime you find a group of people whose lives have been adversely affected—it could be a major fire in an apartment complex, it could be trouble in a given community, it could be a storm or a disaster… There is an evangelicistic advantage. That is, that once I float to your comfort zone, and we become one in our crisis… I may be able to share with you a word from Christ.”

In other words, they are taking advantage of people who are in crisis and using your tax dollars to do it. So far, 37 pastors have completed the tax-funded training. On Monday, I sent a letter to Mayor Todd Strange and Chief of Police Kevin Murphy laying out, in no uncertain terms, that using taxpayer money and governmemt employees for the purpose of spreading Christianity is unconstitutional, and that the program must be terminated immediately, or American Atheists will sue. With your help, we can stop this violation of the most basic of American rights. Taking advantage of vulnerable people in order to evangelize at taxpayer expense is not only unconstitutional, but sickening.

According to the Atlantic, this program is indeed publicly funded, and besides the complete lack of evidence that it works, it’s palpably unconstitutional.  The Atlantic notes this:

“Even without paying the ministers, using ministers as a formal part of the police department— as an outreach ministry — I think violates the Establishment Clause,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the School of Law at University of California in Irvine. “The government cannot take actions that appear to endorse religion. Using ministers in this way does exactly that.”

I don’t think there’s any question about this.  If the cops don’t let mullahs, rabbis, and humanist “preachers” ride around with them, it’s clearly a violation of the First Amendment. In fact, they should deep-six the whole idea. Cops are cops, not aides to God. The police chief weighed in with his rationale:

“What we’re seeing today, those seeds were sown a long time ago. I truly believe there has been a breakdown in the family. We have young people not being guided,” said Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy.

And Murphy’s police department is intent on providing that guidance via a cop-led, Christian outreach program.

Wouldn’t it be better, if you’re dealing with family problems or social dysfunction, to have psychologists instead of ministers ride around with the cops? After all, the First Amendment doesn’t put a wall between state and psychology.


Don’t tase me, Lord!

h/t: Diane G.


  1. gbjames
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    It boggles the mind to think that there are public officials in this country who don’t understand how illegal this sort of thing is.

    • Posted October 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Sadly, it does not boggle the mind that religionists deliberately take advantage of emotionally vulnerable people in this way.


      • Mark Joseph
        Posted October 11, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        The religionists, however (I know; I was one) think precisely that people’s vulnerabilities leading them to make a religious decision is part and parcel of god working in the world. This now seems to me to be some combination (not sure of the exact percentages) of nauseating and evil. Organized predation.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          “Organized predation.”

          Great phrase!

          • Ann B.
            Posted October 12, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

            How about “organized ‘praydation’?”

    • RFW
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Those responsible don’t care if it’s illegal or not. Ever noticed how the right wing never displays any signs of shame or regret, no matter how outrageous their words or deeds?

      It’s a way of Alabama cocking a snoot at those effete fag loving socialists in the Northeast and on the Left Coast.

      Close analogy: the scienos sending out their troops after disasters to help the victims via “touch assists”. They even had a few in Japan doing that after the big tsunami of March 11, 2011.

      One word for this disgusting exploitation of people in difficult situations: vampirism.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Oh they know alright, if they stop to think about it.

      They are just going by the philosophy that it is easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission.

      First person that sits down with me and tells me that I survived something that saw my family and neighbours killed, all because Jesus has a plan for me; well if words could kill, he wouldn’t be one of the survivors.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink


    • Posted October 15, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      They could just not care; I don’t know which is worse.

  2. quine001
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Let’s get the FSM in there. We could hand out pasta as ‘comfort food’ to victims of violent crime.

    • RFW
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      That would be much more helpful than ineffective praying over and preying on the unfortunate.

  3. Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi, dear sweet home Alabama. This is not ok. Stop embarrassing us.

    On another note, all mentions of Montgomery inevitably lead me back to this.

  4. SA Gould
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Wonder how long programs been around. If *anybody* like that appeared during any of the personal tragedies I’ve dealt with, my immediate response would be to want smash their head through the windshied. I just would.

    This is vile.

  5. Andrew B.
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    ““What we’re seeing today, those seeds were sown a long time ago. I truly believe there has been a breakdown in the family. We have young people not being guided,” said Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy.”

    This sentiment is the result of the EXTREMELY pernicious idea that the solution to issues of mental and social health is supernatural.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 12, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      And that the golden age was in the past. The idea that things are worse in the present, and that the only way to make things better is to go back to that golden age deep in the past.

      These people have no idea how badly life sucked for pretty much everyone, just about everywhere, prior to even just a hundred years ago, compared to present day.

      Some people look to the past, some people look to the future.

      • Posted October 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        To be fair, we can be more than a bit confident that the future will bring with it, in the lifetimes of many of those alive today, great hardships from pollution and resource exhaustion and other consequences of overpopulation. We’re already suffering from the first wave….


        • darrelle
          Posted October 12, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          Yes. I was speaking of general traits, but sure.

          But, how will we best surive those hardships? By returning to the past? Not likely. Using resources without thought for the impact on the environment, or for the long term use of the resource, that is the typical pattern of human history so far.

          The way to survive is to look forward. In other words to create knew ways, new understandings and new technologies. This of course requires confidence in the capabilities of human beings. Something that the backward looking types seem to have real trouble with.

          Now, I am not saying that nothing useful can be learned from looking to the past. Not at all. Looking at the past is essential I think.

          • Posted October 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

            We’re on the same sheet of music.

            I’d just add that the current impasse over the budget and debt ceiling would tend to indicate that the smart money isn’t necessarily on the long-term survival of our civilization….


            • darrelle
              Posted October 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

              Thanks for reminding me.

              I think I’ll go make myself a margarita now. 2 parts anjeo, 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice, 1 part agave nectar, shaken with ice, poured over cubes. That ought to help me feel better.

  6. Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    This is what happens to executive powers after reading an Emory Folmer manifesto. I grew up in Montgomery and it’s every bit as bad as the half-life effects of Catholicism.

    So gather ’round, gather ’round chillun’

  7. Andrikzen
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    – He begins to tell you about God’s plan as he takes your hands and prays for you to come to Jesus.

    God has a plan all right! People have been bamboozled into submission and resignation by that line for centuries.

    Religion truly subverts the mind of the host organism to its own designs, or perhaps the design of those most vested in perpetrating this myth(hoax).

    Once people realizing they’ve been hoodwinked into the idea of depending on GOD to take care of them, they will start to demand an equity share in America.

  8. Robert Seidel
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    When reading such things as a foreigner, I’m reminded of Douglas Adams and the Latvians.

    • Marella
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      My mother-in-law, who spent quite a bit of time in the USA, says that she knew it was time to come home when life started feeling just like American TV.

  9. Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Hey, listen-up. As a European atheists I don’t take it so seriously, but there again I haven’t had the powerful religious BS showered upon me as you guys have experienced it. Here in France many churches are closed and the cathedrals are a curiosity. But I am a great believer in Freedom of Religion as an important core freedom of our nations, particularly since by own ‘Human Sub-Set Theory’ demonstrates that about a third of any people anywhere have a Brain Operating System/disorder predicated upon a supernatural hierarchy of authority whereby mad gurus and hysterical virgins are worshipped.
    The religious are ‘servants in search of a master’. So, leave them be. Our real fight is to keep them away from children, school and college, boys’ homes in the Philippines, the media, public places and brothels. But their churches and temples are their own private domain.

    It might be that in the religious state of Alabama (and who can forget that ‘sweet home’ song?) many people in crisis would appreciate the company of an intellectual jester in comic clothes and carrying a magic stick and a book of fantasy explanations, pointing to the sky and mouthing the ritual words that supposedly keep the debil at bay.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Well I bet there are non Christians and atheists on Alabama that would find this very distressing and offensive if it happened to them. Why not have a religiously neutral social worker available? Well I know why – because Christians can’t imagine that anyone would think differently then them. If that happened to me, I’d find myself on the witness stand explaining why I snapped and whooped that evangelical’s ass for psychologically manipulating me when I was under going trauma.

    • Watry
      Posted October 12, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Riding along with cops has nothing to do with their churches and temples being their domain. I always hate to say this but did you even read the article?

      Even if that was just an add-on to your larger point, over here it’s going to be really, really hard to keep them away from the things you mentioned if we can’t even keep them out of our government.

      The whole thing erases non-Christians and is so offensive to both theists and atheists that I can imagine some of these clergyman are going to end up injured.

      • Posted October 13, 2013 at 1:41 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I’ll give you that point. But I suppose that most people in that backward state would like the visit of the clown anyways.

        As to ‘end up injured’! That’s not really our way, is it? Best to paraphrase their beliefs so that they seem ridiculous even to themselves. That’s why I always refer to ‘their gods’ so that they cannot claim an assumed universality in belief. And I like to appear to reflect for the first time when I ponder…

        “Funny thing. Your gods made all those sunsets and frozen waterfalls, but cannot save the five million kids who die of hunger, accident and disease each year!’

  10. Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Jesus Tittyfucking Christ on a Pogo Stick, you have got to be shittin’ me.

    h/t: Diane G.

    Gee, thanks a lot Diane. For ruining my day. Next time you’re auto-tuning the radio, I hope it stops on Rush Limbaugh — that’ll larn you, right good!


    • Diane G.
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      So, I suppose you have a better use for our tax dollars?!!

      Me too.

      • Posted October 12, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        Well, at the moment, much of our tax dollars aren’t being used for anything at all…literally….


        • Diane G.
          Posted October 12, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          Hey, maybe this is actually a brilliant money-raising scheme. Spend nothing and earn a crapload of interest. I should be at the Fed.

          • Posted October 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

            It would be…if it weren’t for the fact that not spending the money now means it’s gonna cost us a whole hell of a lot more in the future….


            • Diane G.
              Posted October 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

              Meh, when has that ever stopped anyone? ;) Might even lead to a new cabinet position–Dept. of Putting out Fires. Motto: We caused it, we can make it worse!

              • Posted October 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                You just described the entire Tea Party wing of the Republican Caucus….


  11. Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink


  12. Marella
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Look on the bright side, even in education forsaken Montgomery there are still enough atheists and unchurched, to make it seem like a good idea to pounce on random people in crisis to try to make more Christians. The population can’t be quite as sodden with religion as we thought!

  13. Dermot C
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    …I may be able to share with you a word from Christ.

    “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachtani,” springs to mind. My God, my God why have you forsaken me?

  14. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Well, this is the most obnoxious crap I’ll see today. Unf***ingbelievable!

  15. Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    This was going on in Colorado Springs 20 years ago – but that’s not particularly surprising given the churchiness of the city.

  16. Posted October 11, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    In. Sane.

  17. Posted October 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    One can never be sure what one would do in such a situation, but I’m pretty sure if a preacher tried that with me I’d tell him to “fuck off and take your mythical sky faries with you!”

  18. Matt G
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    They simply have no respect for the First Amendment. Another by-product of Christian privilege.

  19. Harbo
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Maybe they can issue an apology, on behalf of their omnipotent omniscient leader?

    • Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      That is, of course, one of the most important functions of any deity: to be an unquestionable authority the priests may invoke any time they don’t want to have a debate. It’s the whole point of omnipotent omniscience, after all.

      “Jesus wants you to ____. And who’re you to question Jesus? So what’re you waiting for? ____ now! Jesus commands you!”

      As such, you can absolutely rule out any possibility of anybody ever apologizing on behalf of any god.


      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 11, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        Anyone who claims to know what their god wants, seriously should be held accountable for “acts of god” by proxy. So I should be able to sue their asses when their god damages my stuff!

  20. Max
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    “I’m sorry God let you get shot. God loves all his children. God makes all things possible. Except, in this case, you not getting shot. Did I mention God loves all his children? God loves you. Look, can we just not talk about this getting shot business and start talking about your donation to the church instead?”

    • Posted October 12, 2013 at 2:21 am | Permalink

      Haha. God cares for his children if they send money to the church kitty

    • Posted October 12, 2013 at 2:21 am | Permalink

      Haha. God cares for his children if they send money to the church kitty

  21. ladyatheist
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps these pastors are just trying to buddy up to the cops so they will get gentle treatment when it’s their turn:

  22. Posted October 11, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Outstanding stupidity.

  23. Mike Barnes
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Alas, this form of parasitism is happening in the UK too: a group of christians patrol the famous suicide cliffs at Beachy Head:

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 12, 2013 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      Yeah they do sound rather religious. On the other hand, and in contrast to the wholly parasitic proselytizers of Alabama, it seems the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team patrol the cliffs by themselves with the aim of talking would-be suicides out of it. So I’d have to ask, “would it be better if they stopped?” – and for my part I’d have to answer, no. Unless there’s a team of perfectly secular people available to patrol instead, I’d have to say those particular Christians are doing more good than harm – even if a potential suicide is converted to Xtianity as a result.

  24. Posted October 12, 2013 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t get much more desperately parasitic than this.

    Mortein anyone? Raid? PeaBeu?

  25. Richard Olson
    Posted October 12, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    These Christian minister’s riding around with cops peddling christ insurance are missing a great opportunity if they don’t hook up with Blue Cross or Aflac or somebody. Otherwise they miss out on maybe collecting some spendable commissions jack from selling actual disaster policies on these government house calls.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 12, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Heh, heh, preachers are basically insurance salespeople, aren’t they? Without the ethics…or the payouts…

  26. Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    The best way to stop this unconstitutional practice is to initiate legal procedures demanding that Muslim imams be equally trained and given the same opportunity to ride with the police and proselytize. Or, one could demand atheists be so trained and driven about by the police.

  27. terryln
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    The same thing goes on here in Central Oregon, so it’s not just Alabama.

  28. derekw
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    At the fundamental level is this any different than paid military chaplains?

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