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.
h/t: Diane G.