Group wants Detroit police to stop holding graduations in churches

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Detroit police recruits at their March 2019 graduation ceremony at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit (Photo: Max Ortiz, The Detroit News)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) continues in its crusade to disallow the connection of Christian belief to anything having to do with government, now targeting the Detroit police department for holding Police Academy graduations at churches.

Police chief James Craig said FFRF’s demand to discontinue the practice is doomed to fail, reports the Detroit News.

FFRF, of Madison, Wisconsin, recently sent Craig a letter claiming that holding the graduations at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit violates the Constitution. Second Ebenezer Church also hosts Detroit police graduations, although the Dec. 12 letter didn’t single out that facility.

“The selection of any house of worship as a site for City-sponsored events demonstrates the City’s preference for religion over non-religion, and in particular Christianity over all other faiths,” the letter charged. It went on to characterize the churches as inherently exclusive and discriminatory, claiming, “This sends a message to graduates and members of the audience who are non-adherents that they are outsiders.

“The use of churches for public ceremonies is inappropriate, and raises many constitutional concerns. We urge you to refrain from using houses of worship for future public events,” the letter said.

As is usual for complaints lodged by the FFRF, an anonymous “concerned citizen” contacted the foundation and complained about police graduations being held in churches. This was stated in the FFRF letter.

Despite the group’s objections, Craig said he’ll continue using churches for graduations and other events.

“We stand firm,” the chief said. “As an option, we’ll continue to use houses of worship for our graduations. That doesn’t mean we’re forcing our religious beliefs on anyone. One factor is, these churches donate the space, so there’s no cost to taxpayers.

“We could hold the ceremonies downtown, but then people would have to find parking, and pay money for that,” Craig said. “So this saves taxpayer money, and it saves money to the families of our graduates.”

Police departments across the country hold graduation ceremonies in churches. The Illinois State Police commemorations are held at Hope Church in Springfield, while in Mobile, Alabama, Cottage Hill Baptist Church hosts the city’s police graduations.

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