The Shreveport Police Department will no longer host or promote prayer vigils after a national nonprofit that is openly hostile to “religion” challenged their routine.

‘The Freedom From Religion Foundation’ Hates Prayer Vigils

The name of this group boldly declares their position: The Freedom From Religion Foundation.

We’ll return to Shreveport, but let’s talk about this Foundation for a minute.

doubt

(Photo courtesy DanSun Photo Art)

The Claim

In essence, the argument of this group claims that exercising the freedom of religion, which is protected under the First Amendment, is unconstitutional when on duty government employees participate.

The Establishment Clause

Yet they miss the mark of the Establishment Clause. It was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, such as existed in many other countries at the time of the nation’s founding. It was never meant to prohibit government employees from exercising the First Amendment while “on duty.”

If that were true, then why did the first Congress—that proposed the Bill of Rights—open its legislative day with prayer, a practice that is continued to this day. Why did our founding fathers place, “In God We Trust,” on our currency?

They Hate Prayer

Speaking of prayer in Congress, The Freedom From Religion foundation tried to eliminate it too.

A federal court ruled in October of 2017 that Congress can continue to open its sessions each day with a prayer, and upheld the House’s ability to pick and choose who’s allowed to lead the prayer, reported The Washington Times.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer rejected a challenge by Daniel Barker, co-president of … drum roll please … you guessed it, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, who said he was not permitted to give an opening invocation, even though other guest chaplains have been permitted.

pray

Praying for safety for the Mississippi Highway Patrol prior to their leg escorting “The Trail of Tears.” (Photo courtesy Mary Ann Coggins Robertson)

This Is Curious

I find this curious. Why would a man—Barker— opposed to prayer want to open Congress with a petition to the Almighty? While I don’t know the answer, my guess is that it would have been more of a political speech opposing prayer than anything resembling an authentic humbling utterance before God.

Judge Collyer said House rules didn’t permit him to lead the prayer because he had left his faith.

Furthermore, Judge Collyer said an opening prayer has been a tradition in this country for more than two centuries, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause.

“To decide that Mr. Barker was discriminated against and should be permitted to address the House would be to disregard the Supreme Court precedent that permits legislative prayer,” Judge Collyer wrote in her 2017 opinion.

Barker said her ruling was tainted by personal bias against nonreligious people. Actually, her opinion was based in law and U.S. history. Perhaps Barker should admit that his personal predisposition against religion is really the fuel that generates his motivation.

‘Wall of Separation’

The “wall of separation” discussed by Thomas Jefferson, and typically attributed to the idea of “separation of church and state,” is nowhere to be found in the U.S. Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” is how the First Amendment reads.

The Supreme Court Interpretation of the Establishment Clause does not begin until 1947 in Everson v. Board of Education.

Nevertheless, people hostile to the practice of Christianity fail to acknowledge these truths. They usually mask their claims to opposing “religion” in general, but court cases overwhelming demonstrate it is the Christian worldview that is in their crosshairs.

Shreveport Police Department

Returning to Shreveport.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation laid out its objections to the practice in an Aug. 24 letter to Shreveport Police Chief Alan Crump, reported Shreveport Times.

Crump, according to his biography on the city website, also serves as the pastor of the Republican Missionary Baptist Church in Shreveport.

In its letter, the Foundation argues that vigils hosted and promoted by the police department pose a constitutional threat because they suggest the department promotes or “prefers religion over nonreligion.” As a result, they make the claim this violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

cop praying

(Georgia Department of Community Supervision Facebook)

Neutrality Is Lost?

They claim neutrality is lost by these events. Yet I’d be willing to bet they do not believe neutrality is lost on any number of politically correct practices that smash objectivity and offend the masses, but remain untouchable due to the power of their movements and the legitimacy betrothed to them.

Preferences Do Not Negate Neutrality

Hence, I believe the argument by The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pretty shortsighted. Just because I exercise my desire to eat pizza doesn’t mean I’ve lost neutrality and will discriminate against anyone consuming a hamburger. It’s absurd.

The letter from the Foundation to the City included screenshots of various citywide, monthly vigils that were promoted on the police department’s Facebook page.

The Shreveport Police Department has 15 volunteer chaplains in a city Pastors on Patrol Program, which hosted the vigils. All of them are Christian, said Cpl. Angie Willhite, a department spokeswoman.

“Citizens interact with and rely on law enforcement officers during some of the most urgent and vulnerable times of their lives,” the letter reads. “As a police department, you serve a diverse population that consists not only of Christians, but also minority religious and nonreligious citizens. We hope you will agree that law enforcement must avoid any appearance of bias toward some citizens or hostility toward others.”

Hosting Prayer Vigils Creates the Appearance of Bias?

They must “avoid the appearance of bias,” although they do not specifically articulate any biases observed.

Under this rationale, a police officer driving a Ford must avoid the appearance of bias and therefore, avoid citing a motorist driving a Chevy. After all, actual discrimination is irrelevant, we must simply avoid the ever-ambiguous “appearance.”

Would You Kick a Cat?

Here is another way to look at the issue. Attacking a prayer vigil hosted by a police department following tragic event is paramount to kicking a cat in my view. Please don’t be offended, but I am not a “cat person.” I like dogs. That is why I have two German Shepherds. But I’d never give the boot to a cat, nor would I attack the desire of someone who owns one … even when the kitty meanders onto my property.

police funeral

(Photo courtesy Joseph McIntyre, Bayfield Marshal’s Office)

They Are Hostile to More Than Prayer Vigils

Yet The Freedom From Religion Foundation goes beyond their hostility toward prayer vigils. They have also called for an end to the Shreveport Police Department chaplain program in the letter.

They Insist on Dumping Chaplains

The organization claims there is no need or legal reason for the department to have chaplains. Unlike military service members who may be unable to find places of worship while serving in a foreign country, there are no government-imposed burdens on police officers and their religious worship.

“A chaplain’s employment, even if volunteer, is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” the letter reads.

Prayer Vigils Will Remain as Long as Humanity Insists on Killing

We’ve all heard the saying, “As long as there are tests in school, there will be prayer by students.”

As long tragedies continue to strike and tear our communities apart, there will be prayer vigils. Why shouldn’t law enforcement agencies get involved? If police are at the center of the healing process that occurs during prayer vigils, good for them! Eliminating cops from hosting these events by using the Establishment Clause as a legal foundation is wrong, and legally absurd.

salt

(Photo courtesy DanSun Photo Art)

Goodbye Prayer Vigils Hosted by Shreveport Police Department

Nevertheless, the city of Shreveport will no longer host or promote prayer vigils, said City Attorney William Bradford. But officers are welcomed to attend vigils planned by members of the community, he said.

Fortunately, the city does not plan to end its chaplain program, Bradford continued.

“It’s a matter of best practice,” he said of the changes. “We have to be inclusive of all of our citizens and representative of all of them. We want to make sure we’re implementing practices that do not alienate certain groups of people.”

The primary focus of the letter was to address concerns of the prayer vigils rather than ending the chaplain program itself, said Sam Grover, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

WARNING: Incremental Steps Ending Religious Expression Erode the Path of Freedom

Yet, it is an incremental step toward eventually dissolving the chaplain program, and that is a major victory.

Grover claimed the issue was resolved following reports of the city’s changes.

“If all of those actions are indeed true, then we are happy with those steps,” he said. “For now, we are happy with what the city has done.”

Keys words from Grover, “For now.” What religious practice will they attack next?

Jim McNeff, partner and managing editor, Law Enforcement Today