FFRF to Prayer-Walking Police Department: ‘Get Off [Your] Knees and Get to Work’

Yesterday, I posted about how the Cincinnati Police Department was teaming up with 25 local religious congregations to walk and pray through the city in order to stop crime. Not only did the CPD support the Prayer Walks, they came up with the idea in the first place!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation took action quickly. FFRF Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter to Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell letting him know the government-sponsored Prayer Walks have to come to an end (emphasis his):

Calling upon citizens to pray is coercive and beyond the authority of any government, let alone a law enforcement arm of the government. Citizens should not be made to feel offended, excluded, or like political outsiders because the police department they support their taxes imposes religious ritual on them. Put simply, your office is misusing its secular power to call for religious rituals and exhort citizens, regardless of beliefs, to participate in prayer.

To avoid the constitutional concerns and the divisiveness these prayers cause within the community the solution is simple: discontinue using your government office to promote prayers. While religious leaders are free to hold prayer rallies, the CPD is not. Public officials should get off their knees and get to work. Do something practical to prevent other such crimes.

The letter also explains how, contrary to common wisdom, societies with less prayer also have less violence.

Ball’s in the Chief’s court now. The evidence and law are not on his side. The right thing to do would be to let the pastors manage the walks while urging the police to focus on real, practical solutions.

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.

  • Fred

    Why do the cops need to be on these walks? Wont god look out for the priests?

    Or are the cops there to protect the children from the priests?

  • the moother

    The letter also explains how, contrary to common wisdom, societies with less prayer also have less violence.

    “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” – Albert Einstein

  • Brett N

    I frigging love the FFRF. Time to give some moneys!

  • Randy Meyer

    I am curious as to how they would assign officers to go to this event. Is it mandatory for all officers? What if a Jewish or atheist officer decides not to go?

  • Jim Tarvin

    Makes me so proud to live here in Cincinnati.

  • Mitch

    If off-duty cops want to be a part of this, on their own time and without official endorsement from the CPD, fine. They may do what they wish with their free time. As for the rest of the force, I agree: they would get a lot more accomplished on their feet/in their cars/etc. than on their knees.

  • Dave

    Why does the pope have bullet proof glass in the popemobile?
    A/ his god can’t protect him
    B/ his god doesn’t care
    C/ The pope is really an atheist.

  • Sweetredtele

    Down at the car wash, at the car wash yeah, come on Ya’ll sing it for me…


  • Chakolate

    Okay, please read to the end before piling on, but the overall concept is not bad. Basically, when a neighborhood has high crime, honest citizens stay indoors, ceding the streets to the criminals. Any effort to get those honest citizens outside, taking back their streets, is helpful.

    That said, they could have had some other sort of ‘take back the street, take back the night’ procession. Relying on religion is lazy as well as illegal.

  • mavp

    ” as well as illegal ”

    Hence, the ‘piling on’ that you started out complaining about.

  • S Cruise

    If crime drops while they are out walking and praying, it will make me wonder who the criminals really are.

  • tsig

    If this works we can disband the cops.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Only the good cops. The bad ones can still join up so at least we’ll be able to spot some violent sociopaths by their uniforms.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    If they slightly modify their methodology, I’m all for it.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Heh, indeed. “It’s just common sense” is one of those phrases, along with such gems as “No matter what you say…” and “the fact of the matter is…” that are mighty dog whistles indicating that the speaker probably doesn’t have an argument and is trying to camouflage the fact.

  • busterggi

    Considering that it was raining while they we doing their prayer walk it looks as though the sky fairy had already rejected them.

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    You know, it seems that most of these prayer walks take place in black neighborhoods as a result of crime in those communities. It’s time for black atheists to step up to the plate and challenge these events.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    They’re in a far different social situation than most white atheists. I don’t blame them for whichever choice they make as to how loud they are. I know someone who is estranged from his entire family for being a nonargumentative black agnostic.

  • Gus

    D. The new Pope doesn’t use the popemobile. I’m sure he’s theologically as bad as the old Pope, deep down, but he sure is playing the PR game well enough to screw up all our jokes.

  • Gus

    As a resident of Cincinnati, I support the FFRF’s letter 100%.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Really, this is a good thing. We need new Pope jokes.

  • 3lemenope

    Did anyone catch the follow-up interview with that Italian atheist reporter?

    It included these impossible gems:

    Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.


    Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.

    and most shockingly

    I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres.


    These comments drew fire even from non-Catholic christian conservatives. The Southern Baptists shat themselves.

  • 3lemenope

    He reminds me of the slightly socially unaware older family member who joyfully mentions the family’s dirty laundry during dinner as if he were talking about the weather, and everybody tries to hush him or her but the damage is done.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Holy shit.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Dammit, stop trying to make me like him. :P

  • Matt D

    I started doing that myself, by donating a small portion of my checks to them every few weeks for several months. It’s charity, but they clearly represent my interests, so I have no problem buying their coffee for a year as long as they keep that up.

  • guestpest

    As someone else mentioned, he may be dead soon, “of natural causes”, of course.