Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Prosylitizing Sheriff Ordered to Stop

Howard Friedman spotted this story. A Federal court has ordered Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. to stop bringing in a Christian group to evangelize those who work under him. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote the evangelical church’s presentations violated the Constitution’s establishment clause, which bars governments from promoting a religion.

“These presentations amounted to religious proselytizing,” Adelman wrote. “The effect of the defendants’ actions was to promote religion and to do so coercively.”

Here are some of the details from the court ruling:

In 2006, members of Elmbrook Church, an evangelical Christian church, formed an
organization of law enforcement officers called the Fellowship of Christian Centurions (“Centurions”). They invited law enforcement officers throughout Wisconsin to join, explaining that the organization would assist them in dealing with stress through “Bible study with encouragement and support.” After receiving the Centurions’ invitation, defendant Clarke initiated a meeting with Centurion leaders and subsequently invited them to make a presentation at a Sheriff’s Department (“Department”) leadership conference, which all deputies with the rank of sergeant or above were required to attend. Defendant Bailey arranged the presentation.

At the conference, Clarke first explained to the deputies the criteria that he would use in deciding who he would promote to captain. Clarke also distributed written material, which included a quotation from the Bible and an instruction to deputies to build an inner circle of advisors, which included people who among other things were “people of faith.”…

At some point, Clarke instructed Bailey to arrange similar Centurion presentations at Department “roll calls,” meetings held at the beginning of each work shift at which supervisors
make announcements, and Bailey did so. Deputies are required to attend the roll call held at the beginning of each shift that they work. Centurions attended sixteen roll calls and each time offered condensed versions of their leadership conference presentations, distributed the same Christian-infused written material and made available the same book about Christian faith.

Two deputies, one Catholic and one Muslim, complained about these presentations and their complaints were ignored, so they filed this suit. The judge granted a motion for summary judgment to the plaintiffs.