For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter, in response to a complaint, to officials of the City of Rochester, New York, and to the Chief of the Rochester Police Department.
The letter concerns a violation of the Establishment Clause involving a local police department program that trains clergy to walk the streets and otherwise enlists ministers to serve as official partners with the police department. The program, called “Clergy on Patrol,” is described as helping to build relationships between members of the police department and the local community. However, the letter points out that the program has what appears to be a primarily, if not exclusively, Christian emphasis, and that it conveys authority and stature to clerics in violation of the constitutional requirement of church-state separation.
“Police can have relationships with community leaders, but having ministers of the Gospel as official beat partners is way out of bounds,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “This program practically deputizes religious clergy.”
“It is not the place of local police departments to favor one religion over another,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Doing so unconstitutionally hands over government power to a religious institution and marginalizes religious minorities, as well as those without any religion.”
The letter demands that the City of Rochester terminate the program and refrain from adopting similar programs in the future.
A copy of the letter can be viewed here.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.