The Police Prayer Pops Up All Over the Place June 14, 2009

The Police Prayer Pops Up All Over the Place

A collection of more local government agencies with God on their websites, all courtesy of Barry McGowan.

In the city of Rose Hill, Kansas, the police link to the Police Officer’s Prayer:

Police Prayer

That same prayer is linked to in the left sidebar of the Cornwall Community Police Service in Ontario, Canada.

It’s also featured on the page of the Sheriff’s Office in Fauquier County, Virginia.

The Junction City Police Department in Oregon just piles it all onto one page.

And at the Carroll Township Police Department in Oak Harbor, Ohio, they put the police prayer right on the front lawn!


Obviously, we have to pick our battles, but no government agency should be promoting one version of god over another (or no) god.

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  • You are really nit-picking, Hemant. That is just an innocuous prayer; focus on more important battles, such as prayer in the public schools or school-sponsored trips to the Creation Museum.

  • littlejohn

    If I were a cop, I wouldn’t much mind the prayer. But I’d still wear my ballistic vest.

  • Brooks

    I wonder why God couldn’t use his divine powers to prevent dangerous situations from happening in the first place so you wouldn’t have to pray for God’s help in them?

  • I’m just going to go ahead and invoke Godwin’s law here. Gott mit uns.

    To the Germans it was a rallying cry, “a Protestant as well as an Imperial motto, the expression of German religious, political and ethnic single-mindedness, or the numerous unity of altar, throne and Volk”

  • @Frik:

    Hemant does say that we should pick our battles right in the post, about an inch above your comment. This is obviously more of an “bring it your attention”/”follow-up from a previous post” type post than a call to arms.

    But, I also am going to have to disagree with you. In my opinion, these kind of battles are exactly the ones we should be fighting. It is these type of small, “innocuous”, daily injections of religion into the function of government which desensitize people to the larger injections. Perhaps even conditioning them to expect a larger scale religious injection if they get so used to it on the smaller daily scales.

  • Todd

    Along the line of picking battles, consider both which battles are important to fight, which battles have the most effect when we win, and which battles we actually can fight.

    So given this specific set of three choices, publicly presented police prayers, organized prayer in public schools, and school-sponsored trips to the Creationism Museum, which is the most important? Which would be the biggest win? And which one(s) can we actually fight?

    Care to expand the argument to other possible battles? Let’s hear about that, too. How do the same questions apply?

  • Andy G

    I think we should be more focused on battling the acrostic poem epidemic that our country is facing.

  • I’d rather not our government services make prayers so central.

    BUT, a lot of the content of that one is really good. The police are in a powerful situation and are constantly exposed to negativity and all the dark parts of our society.

    The injunctions that negative thoughts tarnish your judgment, that corruption is to be avoided, and that one should look for the good in society are really important reminders for cops, in my mind. For everyone, really.

    So I don’t find this one too noxious. On a scale of secular policy (0) to the creation museum (10), I rate this “offense” a 2.

  • peregrine

    Most of these are in the States, so obviously, you’d have the establishment clause to draw on. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. But the first one is used by police forces in both the US and Canada.

    We don’t have the establishment clause. Our equivalent is paragraph 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

    Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    (d) freedom of association.

    Atheism is technically protected, but the very same act begins with the following preamble:

    Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

    Granted, we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism, and often go out of our way to be inclusive. But clearly the separation of church and state is a little harder to argue up here. In spite of this, our politicians tend to run a mostly secular government, more or less, and downplay the religiosity with the obvious exception of occasional pomp and ceremony, and the legal language, much of which we inherited from Britain.

    But the difference in the wording of the two documents from both nations, while intended to grant the same rights and freedoms, make an interesting omission. You can easily say that America is not a Christian nation, and while Christians might not agree, you’d be able to mount a reasonable defense. But I’d imagine we’d be hard pressed to say the same about Canada.

    In the United States, you might be able to say that no government agency should promote any idea of god, or absence thereof, over another. And if you were so inclined, you might be able to make a go of it in the courts. But I don’t think we’d have the same luck in Canada.

    I’ve often been curious, if it came down to a legal battle, if there would be anything enshrined in Canadian law that we could leverage to maintain a clear separation of church and state akin to the Establishment clause. This is one place where I know American law better than Canadian, mostly because to the best of my knowledge, it’s really never been challenged in court.

    But I kindof wonder if one of the reasons we enjoy a multicultural nation without nearly as much controversy between believers and unbelievers is because we don’t pick on little things like that. Sequestered off into an insignificant square of the police mainpage, to be ignored along with the corporate sponsor ads seems to me like a perfect place for it. They keep it there, and we don’t complain, and everyone smiles and talks about Hockey.

  • Iztok

    The police should play it safe, you never know, just in case… like this guy:

    In case you guys didn’t see this video yet it is funny as hell. Well if there is hell and it is funny 🙂

  • Brooks

    But, I also am going to have to disagree with you. In my opinion, these kind of battles are exactly the ones we should be fighting. It is these type of small, “innocuous”, daily injections of religion into the function of government which desensitize people to the larger injections. Perhaps even conditioning them to expect a larger scale religious injection if they get so used to it on the smaller daily scales.

    I have to agree that although it might not seem like a big deal on the whole, these little injections of religions can be used to reinforce the false myth that America is a Christian nation and it’s ok to inject religion as long as the powers that be don’t think it’s a big deal. Having In God We Trust on dollar bills might not seem like a big deal in the long run, but many fundies use the In God We Trust phrase as “evidence” to support their agendas. I think it’s a double standard that atheists shouldn’t make a big deal about things like this this police prayer but you know if we actually did try to challenge this, the fundies would make a big deal about how persecuted they are. So long as fundies want to make an issue about little things like this, I don’t see why we should not also take it seriously. And you also know if Muslims tried to put up an Islam police prayer in front of police buildings, fundies everywhere would be justifiably outraged and demand for it to be removed. If we wouldn’t allow it for other religions, then I don’t see why we should let Christianity get away with it. I also think it’s hypocritical of that police station site to claim it upholds the constitution but violates it by putting up this prayer in the front lawn.

  • We have got to keep in mind how others perceive us. If we bleat about every prayer, people are going think that we are a bunch of whining atheists. Rather, if we choose our fights and only speak out when a clear violation of Church-State Separation has occurred, we can increase our credibility with the general population. And once we go after the big battles and get folks on our side, then the little skirmishes will correct themselves, once public opinion changes. Honestly, the prayer is hardly a big deal. We have better things in life to do than become the “God police”, bleating about every phrase in public life.

  • llewelly

    June 14th, 2009 at 8:42 pm :

    … and everyone smiles and talks about Hockey.

    A bald admission that rival religious factions dominate conversation in Canada.

  • Peregrine

    Ha. Too true, llewelly.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    In the interest of equal time:

    The Criminal’s Prayer

  • Brooks

    If we bleat about every prayer, people are going think that we are a bunch of whining atheists.

    Though to be fair, there are some theists who will always see us as whiny atheists whether we focus on major issues or not because to some theists, the mere existence of atheists is blasphemous and offensive to them. If this prayer is no big deal to have, is it then no big deal to let theists put up ten commandments plaques in court houses? When it comes to the separation of church and state, where does one draw the line between something that’s not a big deal and something that is?

  • godless in america

    I don’t think it’s nit-picking. This is a clear endorsement of Christianity by government. If I lived in this community I would not be happy that my tax dollars were being spent to endorse a religion I don’t believe in, anymore than if my taxes were being spent to pay for somebody’s campaign. If it were a Muslim prayer, do you think any of the good residents of this town would care? I kinda think they would go bat shit crazy. It’s OK if we cram our religion down your throat, just as long as you keep yours to yourself.

  • Jim

    The question is what power, if any, does the Federal government have to dictate to the local police / government what they can and cannot put on their lawns? I think you have to take it to the State Courts and they generally side with the religious. As for State jurisdiction over websites, that is I think a bit of a gray area perhaps.

    The prayer on the lawn at least doesn’t say God or Jesus like the others. It’s sort of ambiguous though nobody doubts what ‘Lord’ is being referred to.

  • Brooks

    Ironically, the ad at the top of this page is for a site that will pray for us.

  • Julie

    Our tax money pays for our police officers. It also pays for my own employment, and I would throw a fit if there were any religion associated with my line of work, or the department as a whole. I recommend that the residents who pay for these departments write letters.

    This is not nit-picking, this is personal! And yes I will “bleat” at every prayer, not because I’m whiny, but because it fucking pisses me off. Being silenced is why this all happened and still continues to happen.

  • I am a policeman and an atheist. The policeman’s prayer in this article is just one of many versions. However they are all very much Christian and all very irritating. I am a very vocal atheist and have no problem letting my Christian co-workers know what I think of their religion. Keep it out of government. And after 25 years as a policeman, I can confirm there is no god!

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