Philadelphia Cops Paid To Attend Church?

This letter comes from a new police recruit in Philadelphia. He’s also an atheist.

Can you help him out?

Today I was told that the police academy will be sending its recruit class to “Blue Mass” on Friday at Philadelphia’s local Holy Family College.

All recruits have been given the opportunity to opt out, and I have. However, I cannot get past the fact that the city of Philadelphia will literally be paying the other 150+ members of my class to attend a religious service. How can they not see that this is a blatant violation of the separation of church and state?

Again, I reiterate, I have opted out and when other recruits ask me why, I tell them what a violation it is and why they should feel the same way I do.

Is there anything more you, or your community, can suggest I do?


  • Reginald Selkirk

    Presumably, if they are willing to pay cops to participate in one religion’s rituals, they will pay for participation in any religion’s rituals. So find a church you think they won’t approve of (Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, Scientology, Islam, whatever), and try to arrange for a similar event in that church. If they say no, then sue their ***** off.

  • http://thinkingforfree.blogspot.com Eamon Knight

    A Catholic Mass? Why aren’t the Baptist and Presbyterian recruits also complaining? (I know, getting paid to sit on a bench and be bored for an hour while doing no real work maybe doesn’t seem like a bad deal).

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    I imagine the ACLU would be able to help him in some way. They should not be paying people to go to church.

  • Lionel L.

    Has anyone asked the local media to investigate?

  • Tom

    The above suggestions are good. ACLU, local media.

    Also find local atheist groups and call them to suggest that they could throw a protest in front of the church to protest misuse of tax dollars, and they too could call all the local media to get them to come photograph/video the protest.

    Also pick up the phone and start calling other local churches, temples, and mosques to get them to protest use of tax dollars to fund a catholic service, and they too can call the local media to get them to come report on the protest. They also can call the ACLU and sign on as potential plaintiffs. This is one time when you can have all the obnoxious right wing religious nutcases on your side for a change.

    Imagine if the police academy was informed that when they show up at the church they will be met by 100 protestors from a dozen different religious groups and an atheist group, and a dozen or so reporters shoving microphones in their face demanding to know about their unlawful use of tax dollars. How long do you think this activity will remain on the calendar?

  • CatBallou

    We also have to keep in mind that the writer is a new recruit. I imagine that there could be serious consequences for him in terms of morale and solidarity if he is perceived as a troublemaker or whistleblower.
    Unless he can persuade some of his fellow recruits to join him in this “boycott,” perhaps he should lie low and let others—like the ACLU—do the protesting for him.

  • Tom

    Catballou, yes, that’s why I didn’t suggest that he talk privately to a superior officer about it. While in general I believe in calmly informing people about problems to give them a chance to do the right thing before calling in authority figures, in this case, it seems foolish for him to risk his whole career when he could just make a few phone calls and let others take care of it for him.

  • Mike

    I am by no means supporting what the department is doing and think they should not be paying anyone at all let alone those that opted out. But I am just curious how many commenters are from Philadelphia. I lived there a large part of my childhood and still go back quite often. The city has an extremely large Catholic population. So for those in the city they shouldn’t be all that surprised at this. It is wrong but not surprising.

  • http://www.steelcityskeptics.net eliza

    In addition to Mike’s comment above, the Philly PD is notoriously very Catholic. Both my father, step father, and uncle were Philly cops and Blue Mass is not new. When my stepdad went to the police academy his sociology and some other credits were given at Holy Family college. I am almost positive that my much older uncle’s “refresher sensitivity training” course was taken there and taught by a nun.

    I have not lived in Philly since I was a teenager but I imagine it would still be incredibly difficult to become the FOP president there if you weren’t an Irish Catholic.

    Actually that they have the option to opt out and this trainee felt like it was safe to do so is what surprises me.

  • http://churchvstate.blogspot.com/ David

    If I am not mistaken, doesn’t the police force pay for chaplains? Does that violate the Constitution? The whole “separation…” thing is grossly misunderstood in general these days. It is intended to keep the federal government from making a LAW establishing an official religion. It was only applicable to the feds because when the U.S. Constitution was written about half the states had official state religions. Even if you now apply that constraint to the states, it would only prevent the state legislature from making a law about this. A policy or practice is not the same as a law.

    The original Pennsylvania constitution in Section 10 said, “And each member [of the legislature], before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: ‘I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governour of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scripture of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.’”

    That may not be in force today, but the Penn. constitution still says, “WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

    Isn’t the appearance of all those uniforms just a good way to create community?

  • Lou

    I disagree with the suggestion to arrange an event with another “church” and sue them if they don’t comply, because you would be doing exactly what they are doing, mixing church and state. The right thing to do would be to protest such constitutional violation. But like CatBallou said, it’d be best to leave it to organizations like the ACLU to do the protesting for you, they have the legal arms and you won’t end up compromising your career.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X