Shreveport Police Department to end city-wide prayer vigils

Updated: Oct. 18, 2018 at 11:56 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The Shreveport Police Department will no longer be hosting or promoting city-wide prayer vigils, City Attorney William Bradford confirmed.

However, according to Bradford, SPD officers are still allowed to attend vigils hosted by other community members. Bradford also noted the department’s chaplain program will continue.

This announcement comes after a national nonprofit, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which advocates for the separation of church and state, sent a letter to SPD Chief Alan Crump urging him to discontinue the vigils on the basis the gatherings are unconstitutional.

“FFRF received reports that department chaplains organize monthly community prayer vigils in Shreveport,” the letter reads. “...any police department promotion of, and participation in prayer vigils poses serious constitutional concerns.”

In the letter, the FFRF includes Facebook posts produced by SPD promoting and encouraging the public to attend prayer vigils across the city. The nonprofit argues the city’s chaplain program is biased towards Christianity and is thus unconstitutional.

“Shreveport police officers have no government-imposed burdens on freedom on their religion, so there is no need-or legitimate legal reason-for the department to provide a chaplain for them,” the letter reads. “A chaplain’s employment, even if volunteer, is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.”

According to SPD’s website, Pastors on Patrol comprises “local clergy from a variety of religious denominations who ride on patrol with police officers.” Though, the local religious figures listed are all Christians.

SPD did not want to comment on the matter when KSLA reached out.

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