An atheist activist group has asked a city in Alabama to put a stop to its police department's involvement and endorsement of religious programs and functions.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has sent a letter to the City of Wetumpka, as well as the Wetumpka Police Department (WPD), calling on the city and the department to stop participating in religious events.
According to Christian News Network, the police department hosts a summer community program which includes daily devotionals among the list of activities. The WPD also allegedly promotes a meal program for the community operated largely by local churches known as "People Extending Christian Kindness." The program is reportedly held monthly at the WPD, and it is mentioned on the department's Facebook page.
The Wetumpka Herald reported that both the city and the department had also shared an image of an officer who appeared to be having a Bible study with children.
The Blue Lives Matter Facebook page reportedly captioned the photo, "Officer Dailey of the Wetumpka Police Department having bible study with some kids on her beat. Awesome job officer!"
In the letter sent to the city on June 7, the FFRF argued that the police department is not being neutral toward religion by hosting events and posting them on Facebook. The organization contended that the department's involvement in Christian activities makes non-Christians feel like "outsiders."
"The police department's proselytizing and the endorsement of this proselytizing through the official Facebook pages of the city and the department violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by favoring a specific religion over others," the letter stated.
"[C]itizens should not be made to feel excluded or like political outsiders because the local government they support with their taxes oversteps its power by proselytizing and promoting religious events through official government channels," it continued.
The FFRF has asked the city to discontinue its involvement in all religious events and requested the removal of social media posts with religious content.
"We ask that all events sponsored by the city or the department discontinue including devotionals or other religious elements, and that the department cease official participation in religious events like the 'People Extending Christian Kindness' dinners," the FFRF wrote.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the FFRF, said she fully supported the police department's efforts to reach out to the children in the community through fun and educational means, but not through Bible studies.
She asserted that there would be outrage if the program involved a Koran study or the practice of another religion. She said that the Bible study program is not viewed in the same way as it involves the practice of the dominant religion, which is Christianity.