This right here is a picture of a Wetumpka (Alabama) Police Department officer “having bible study with some kids on her beat.” It was posted by the Facebook group “Blue Lives Matter” and later shared by the Wetumpka Police Department itself, confirming the description.
Why is a cop joining in a bible study while on the clock?
This isn’t an anomaly for the department, either, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
The city of Wetumpka reportedly hosts a “CJ Deputy Summer Program” at the Wetumpka Police Department that includes “Daily Devotionals.” The police department also hosts a monthly dinner with local churches called “People Extending Christian Kindness.” These dinners take place at the Wetumpka Police Department and involve religious leaders and members coming into the police department to serve food. They are promoted on the official Facebook page, sometimes accompanied by bible verses. These posts often praise God or contain Christian religious messages. One such post reads, in part, “A special thanks goes to God the Father for the opportunity, resources, and for His love. Thank You Lord for giving us all we need to give back to the community we love to protect and serve.”
I’m sure the Department would justify all this by saying they’re creating bonds with the community. But there are plenty of ways to do that without proselytizing. And what sort of divisive message does this send to non-Christians in the community?
“The Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment ‘mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,'” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line writes to Wetumpka City Attorney Regina Edwards. “When the department hosts bible studies, provides devotionals, and hosts dinners with local churches that make explicit reference to their Christian purposes, the department favors Christianity over all other religions and over those with no religion.”
There are broader societal implications here, too. These official social posts send the message to all the non-Christians and nonreligious people in Wetumpka that they “are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community,” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court. The Wetumpka Department’s favoring of Christianity alienates the 30 percent of American adults who are non-Christian, including the 24 percent who identify with no religion at all. It is also a clear violation of the Establishment Clause.
“It doesn’t behoove law enforcement to step outside the bounds of the Constitution,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The good folks of Wetumpka can’t be expected to obey the law when the police department is breaking the law itself.”
You would think police officers, even in Alabama, would get how promoting Jesus isn’t part of their job description. But if they choose to break the law, then they’ll be punished for it.
Surely they understand that.