Fort Wayne’s Mayor Has a Solution for Rampant Violence: Prayer!

Tom Henry, the Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, wants to curb violence in his city, and he knows exactly how to do it: Lots and lots of prayer! (Interfaith prayer, even!)

Because why deal with gun safety when you can just ask Jesus to send you some bulletproof vests?

The event is primarily billed as a way to better unite the community, and to facilitate more appreciation of diversity.

But Henry hopes it will lead as well to neighborhoods that are safer.

No matter the religious tradition, prayer is accepted as a source of healing for pain, suffering and moral failure.

“We have a number of challenges in the United States right now, certainly, what’s going on in Washington is evident to all,” Henry said Tuesday, as he revealed plans for a May 5th prayer celebration at the Scottish Rite Center on West Berry Street.

Mayor Henry doesn’t need convincing that prayer can heal what ails a country, state, or city.

Great. During the next election, I hope the voters can pray for his victory while staying at home while more sensible people fill out ballots.

May 5th, not coincidentally, is just days after the National Day of Prayer.

The program is billed as an interfaith event — and the official announcement has no mention of non-religious people, though the news report says we’re invited, whatever that means (no word yet on how we’ll be included or ignored).

At least no taxpayer money is being used for the event:

The University of St. Francis, new owner of the Scottish Rite, is not charging for use of the facility.

Other participants are donating their time, and the cost of a small reception afterwards, Mayor Henry says he’s paying for that out of his own pocket.

That’s a good precaution. But the Mayor is forgetting the most important thing: This is a complete waste of time.

While he’s busy pretending to solve the problem, he’s evading taking any real, measurable actions.

Through praying together, organizers hope the community will come together and take a stand against problems such as violence, drugs and poverty. We shouldn’t have three young men gunned down in three days, which the city experienced last week, [co-organizer and leader of the Islamic Center of Fort Wayne, J. Tamir] Rasheed said.

I promise you that prayers reign supreme in communities where violence, drugs, and poverty run rampant. They don’t fix the problems. Better policy decisions could help, though, and that’s what the Mayor is ignoring, choosing instead to stage a useless photo op.

If I lived in Fort Wayne, I’d be pissed off at how the Mayor isn’t doing anything tangible to fix my city’s problems. If you live there, write letters and make calls to your local media outlets and let them know that this is unacceptable.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RevDeath Joshua Holmes

    Holy Crap. A new article that takes place in my hometown. I understand where you’re coming from, but you really should cut Tom a little slack. In a strong Red City in a moderately Red State he’s one of the few Democrats we have. Even though he’s not doing anything to solve the problem at least time is the only thing he’s wasting and not the tax payers money.

  • http://twitter.com/Ro542124 Gideon

    On a larger scale (I don’t know the stats for Ft. Wayne), I recall reading that the rate of violent crime has decreased in recent decades. Yet the rate of strong religiosity has also decreased. Put the two together, and the overall empirical conclusion seems to be that less violent crime is accompanied by less praying.

    (Not seriously. Anyone can take any two variables and say there’s a connection. That’s how conspiracy theory works. My actual conjecture is that, after controlling for other factors (e.g. poverty rate), the independent factor of religiosity has around zero effect.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/RevDeath Joshua Holmes

      Violent crime is on the rise in Ft. Wayne. It’s been steadily increasing for years (Now roughly 4x higher per sq mile that Indianapolis)

  • Rwlawoffice

    I read the article. No where in the article does it say that the Mayor is evading taking any measurable actions in order to have this interfaith prayer meeting. Why misrepresent what is actually happening? When Christians do it you say they are lying for Jesus. Who are you lying for?

    • liu

      Choosing to adress real problems by consulting with your imaginary friend is not an effective or acceptable way to deal with things, especially if you’re an elected representative whos job is to serve the people. Instead of spending his time doing nothing (as he is now by pursuing this prayer “solution”) he could actually be taking steps that would, you know, FIX the problem.

      • 3lemenope

        You didn’t address his point. What if he already is doing everything in his power to address that problem? Is adding prayer on top the same thing as *replacing* doing something in his power with prayer?

  • http://daniel.bottle-imp.com/ Daniel

    I grew up in Fort Wayne and moved away when I was 25 in large part due to the extremely conservative and religious nature of the place. This is precisely the sort of thing I expect, and it will likely procure him extra votes.

  • Bob Becker

    The key point: no public money being spent one this. And so in this case, H, your snit fit seems over the top to me. Slow news day, was it?

    • flyb

      Over the top? He’s merely pointing out what a waste of time and effort this is. It might make a few people feel better about themselves for “making the world a better place” or something, but it’s ultimately as futile as praying for a missing limb to grow back. It’s important for people to see this kind of nonsense put forward by our elected politicians, even if it is not paid for by the tax payers.

      • Bob Becker

        Wih all the instances around us of theist public officials using their offices and the public funds to promote their faith, get it into the public school etc. ( many of which examples H reports here) , a mayor on his own time and dime calling for prayer doesn’t seem like much of a deal to me. He’s free to do that and should be. Of couse it’s not going to work any better than Gov. Perry’s “pray for rain” pleas did. But a Christian calling for prayer is so unexceptionable an act,

        it hardly seems worth all the heart-burning H gave it.

        • flyb

          Okay, I see your point about the mayor, an otherwise ordinary citizen, organizing something on his own time and dime. In that sense, it’s not really much different than if he hosted a birthday bash at his house. It’s not really anyone’s business. But with all the over the top marketing and publicity for an event like this, purported to “help” the community, perhaps it warranted a bit of heart-burning over it like other religious coverage here. That is what we do here, afterall. ;)

          • me

            I think what the mayor is doing is trying to bring the community together, because that is where the violence happens in the community. We as a community need to come together to end this violence, we have to take a stand against these murderers!

  • flyb

    Prayer is a “time tested way to connect with your creator?” Citation, please, Mr. Local News Narrator Guy.

  • pip

    this scheduled interfaith day of prayer sure didn’t help the latest homicide victim this morning in fort wayne…a woman getting off of a bus, shot & killed. the prayer effort reminds me of ga gov. sonny purdue praying for rain in 2007 drought-stricken georgia, on the capitol steps. i’d like to see some concrete efforts made, such as pact communities (police & citizens together), instead of this lamenting of a problem without looking in reality to solve it.

    • C Peterson

      How do you know? I simply assumed that enough of the good citizens of Fort Wayne prayed for this women to die that God decided to respond. Prove me wrong.

  • observer

    “During the next election, I hope the voters can pray for his victory while staying at home while more sensible people fill out ballots.”

    Know what? that’s an excellent idea. People who truly DO believe in God ought to pray for their representative, rather then using the “flawed” man-made ballot system.

  • fsm

    Regardless of whether or not these politicians are wasting money, this is a separation issue. I get so tired of hearing politicians that swore to uphold the constitution pandering to the superstitious. I won’t be happy until it is declared in court that politicians are barred from referring to any religion, ever.

    • Bob Becker

      Such a ban would be a violation of their first amendment rights. An elected official is, and should be, as free as you and I are, to speak on such matters. Establishing categories of topics on which, say, state legislators or congressmen can not speak would be a very bad idea. A very bad idea. The remedy oir what annoys you ( and often me) lies at the polls.

      • Good and Godless

        Then change the first amendment (it too was an amendment) to remove your impediments of good governance.

    • flyb

      It’s not a separation issue. The mayor is not doing this in his official capacity as mayor, other than using his position and title to advertise it (which I don’t believe is a problem, but I’m not a constitutional lawyer). And tax payers are not footing the bill and it’s not a required event for anyone. But I’m with you on your frustration with politicians pandering to superstitions. However I’m not with you on your last statement. Maybe you should clarify it, especially the “ever” part.

  • http://welfle.com/ Andy Welfle

    Hi, all! Lifetime Fort Wayner here. Man, Hemant, you are ON IT! Where did you hear about this?

    I was just wishing that Freethought Fort Wayne, a once-active, now-dissolved community action group was still together, and we could have had a doozy of a statement to release about this. But yeah, this is exactly how I felt about it, and as a friend pointed out, it sort of feels like the mayor is just… giving up.

    He’s not holding a (secular) community forum. He’s not increasing police presence in the risky areas. He’s not addressing root problems like racism, poverty, etc. He’s giving up and putting it in “God’s hands”.

    It’s frustrating because I’ve always been impressed with Henry up until now. He’s a democrat, fairly socially liberal (though he comes from a fairly prominent Catholic family in town), and is generally well-liked. The local paper says that he was going to hold this interfaith event anyway, and they only tied it together to the “crime spree” that’s happened the last few days.

    Still, I’m interested to know who is funding this event. I am not sure we have details on that yet.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I have my tentacles everywhere… (Also, awesome readers send me things.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jerome-McCollom/100000327150215 Jerome McCollom

    End the war on drugs if you want to dramatically curb violence. Much, if not most of the violence in our nation’s cities and rural areas are directly or indirectly from the war on drugs. From gang members selling to people robbing and commiting theft to keep their drug addiction going at the higher prices tahat are a product of the drug war.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I’d really like to start a movement for the national day of prayer to pay for something measurable. My first thought was a decrease in car crashes, but any other ideas? No new cancer diagnoses for the day?

    Maybe a Whitehouse petition?

  • Good and Godless

    A major factor for reducing violence is higher intelligence.
    A major factor for reducing religiousness is higher intelligence.
    A major factor for voting republican is lower intelligence.

    A major target for republican lawmakers to de-fund and discredit is education.


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