DETROIT — The police chief of Detroit, Michigan says he won’t agree to a request from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to cease holding police academy graduations at local churches.
“We stand firm,” Chief James Craig told the Detroit News. “As an option, we’ll continue to use houses of worship for our graduations. That doesn’t mean we’re forcing our religious beliefs on anyone.”
According to the outlet, FFRF recently sent Craig a letter to advise that a “concerned citizen” had alerted them to the practice. The atheist-led Church-State separation group in turn contacted the Detroit Police Department to assert that it is unconstitutional to hold government events in a house of worship.
Ceremonies have been held at Greater Grace Temple and Second Ebenezer Church.
“The use of churches for public ceremonies is inappropriate and raises many constitutional concerns,” the correspondence stated. “We urge you to refrain from using houses of worship for future public events.”
“The selection of any house of worship as a site for City-sponsored events demonstrates the City’s preference for religion over non-religion, and in particular Christianity over all other faiths,” it said. “This sends a message to graduates and members of the audience who are non-adherents that they are outsiders.”
However, Craig says that the police department uses the churches as the parking is ideal and the usage is free. There is no cost to taxpayers, and those who attend the event don’t have to pay to park.
The Detroit Police Department has also long worked with area churches in presenting safety seminars and gun buyback programs.
“This is not unusual,” Craig remarked. “Religious institutions have always opened their doors to police — not just here, but in the other cities I’ve worked.”
As previously reported, last month, a sheriff’s department in Alabama likewise stated that it would not be responding to a letter from FFRF after the organization asked that it cease asking the community to pray in the wake of tragedies.
“They’re just trying to send a letter in hopes that we will cower down, and that’s just not something that we’re going to do,” T.J. Armstrong of the Walker County Sheriff’s office told Christian News Network. “We’re not looking for a fight, but we’re going to continue down the path that we are and do what we believe God has called us to do.”
He said the matter would be different if the sheriff’s office was attempting to force someone to follow their religion, but noted that such is actually impossible as none can make anyone have faith but the Holy Spirit. Suggestions from FFRF otherwise would be implausible.
“You can’t dictate or force someone into becoming a Christian,” Armstrong explained. “The repentance that’s necessary to become a Christian, that repentance has to come from conviction of the Holy Spirit. And if we’re forcing that on somebody — it’s impossible. The claim just doesn’t make any sense.”
The Detroit Police Department posted an image in 2017 apparently in observance of homosexual Pride Month.