If that was merely an ad put out by a church, and attendance was voluntary, that would be perfectly fine. But there’s good reason to believe the city was helping promote the event. Especially since the lady at the center of that picture is Police Chief Jeri Williams.
After the ACLU of Arizona pointed out the legal problems with the city’s involvement in such an event, a spokesperson from the city attorney’s office told the Phoenix New Times the event was cancelled. But Sergeant Tommy Thompson, who speaks for the Phoenix Police, said it was just going to be rescheduled. There’s no explanation for why Williams is in that picture — in uniform.
The Phoenix Police Department did not respond to questions about who organized the event, where the photo came from, and whether it was staged and taken specifically for this event. The photo looks professionally done, raising questions as to whether a Phoenix police employee took it and created the “United in Christ” flyer at work, or whether the Phoenix Police Department paid BridgeBuilders to create the promotional materials.
Even beyond that, the flyer says that parking is free, including parking meters on the streets. Is the city paying for that, too? No clue. One description of the event even said prayers would be “led by members of the Phoenix Police Department.” That’s why this event would be illegal. That’s why the police department owes the public answers. It wouldn’t be the first time a city promoted Christianity in a way they would never do for, say, Islam.
The bigger picture here is that the police are making it clear that Christians get preferential treatment. You’re one of the good guys if you share their faith. The rest of you can fend for yourselves. The city would obviously deny those suggestions, but what else are we supposed to take from this flyer? If the city is promoting one religion like this — and they’re not doing enough to deny that — it’s a logical conclusion.
The Phoenix New Times also points out that nearly 100 current and former members of the Phoenix PD were recently caught posting racist, anti-Islam posts on Facebook. Given everything we know about how conservative Christianity aligns with the Republican government and its brand of white nationalism, what’s happening locally seems perfectly in line with all that.
If these officers want to pray, no one’s stopping them from doing it on their own, or even with each other in a church. When they’re promoting Christianity using taxpayer resources, they’re making it clear they can’t be trusted to follow the laws they swore to protect.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)