UPDATE: Monday, December 10, 2012
The mayor of McPherson plans to keep a police chaplain ride-along program, after coming under fire from a Wisconsin-based organization.
Last week, the city received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation saying the program violates the Constitution's separation of church and state and asked that the practice be ceased immediately.
This morning, Mayor Thomas Brown emailed a response, saying the program will continue.
"Based on a legal review, I am confident that the City is constitutionally permitted to establish a Police Chaplaincy program," Mayor Brown said. "Similar programs exist throughout the nation and
have been legally approved in the past."
The full text of the mayor's response is attached, along with the original letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Friday, December 7, 2012
The McPherson Police Department is finding itself in the middle of a religious controversy after a Wisconsin-based organization expressed concern that the department's chaplain ride-along program violates the Constitution.
Since august, two McPherson pastors have done ride-alongs with McPherson officers while on patrol. However, this week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the Mayor saying the chaplains are unnecessary and and legally problematic. The group describes itself as a protector of the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.
Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel says the group received a complaint from a McPherson resident about the program. King's Highway Baptist Church Pastor Martin Coon is one of two chaplains involved in the program and says the work is voluntary.
"We are not telling police how to do it. We are not proselytizing. We are not preaching sermons on calls or anything else." Coon says if chaplains are asked to leave, they leave.
The FFRF attorney says a person shouldn't be put in a situation to have to decline the chaplain's service. Seidel says, "It's not something that the government can be doing. They can't be coming into your home with a religious person saying x,y and z. It's just not constitutional."
The city of McPherson is consulting with legal counsel and will issue a statement during Monday evening's meeting.
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