The Shreveport Police Department will no longer host or promote prayer vigils after a national nonprofit that advocates for the separation of church and state argued that the practice was unconstitutional.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation laid out its objections to the practice in an Aug. 24 letter to Shreveport Police Chief Alan Crump.
Crump also serves as the pastor of the Republican Missionary Baptist Church in Shreveport.
In its letter, the organization argues that vigils hosted and promoted by the police department pose a constitutional threat because they suggest the department promotes or “prefers religion over nonreligion,” which violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court, the group argues, has said government must remain neutral.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation also called for an end to the Shreveport Police Department chaplain program in the letter.
The organization claims there is no need or legal reason for the department to have chaplains. Unlike military service members who may be unable to find places of worship while serving in a foreign country, there are no government-imposed burdens on police officers and their religious worship.
The city will no longer host or promote prayer vigils, said City Attorney William Bradford. But officers are welcomed to attend vigils planned by members of the community, Bradford said.
The city, however, does not plan to end its chaplain program, Bradford said.