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Louisiana Police Department Stops Its Prayer Vigils Over Freedom From Religion Foundation Complaint

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

Louisiana’s Shreveport Police Department announced it will stop hosting prayer vigils after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FERF) claimed they violated the constitution.

FFRF sent a formal complaint on Aug. 24 to the police department, asserting that by hosting prayer vigils, the police department “prefers religion over nonreligion” and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The organization also demanded that the police department cease its chaplaincy program. City Attorney William Bradford responded to the complaint saying that while the police department will stop hosting prayer vigils and simply allow officers to attend other vigils independently, they will not stop their chaplaincy program. (RELATED: Stephen Hawking’s Last Book Makes An Explosive Claim About God)

“A chaplain’s employment, even if volunteer, is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” FFRF’s letter reads, according to Shreveport Times.

Shreveport Police Officer Cpl. Will Bates makes a late night traffic stop as the driver hands officer Bates his drivers? license January 25, 2005 in Bossier City, LA. The Supreme Court gave police broader search powers during traffic stops, ruling that drug-sniffing dogs can be used to check motorists. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

Shreveport Police Officer Cpl. Will Bates makes a late night traffic stop as the driver hands officer Bates his drivers? license January 25, 2005 in Bossier City, LA. The Supreme Court gave police broader search powers during traffic stops, ruling that drug-sniffing dogs can be used to check motorists. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

Bradford asserted, however, that doing away with the chaplaincy program would alienate those within the police department who are Christian. As for ending the prayer vigils, the attorney said it was “a matter of best practices.”

“We have to be inclusive of all of our citizens and representative of all of them. We want to make sure we’re implementing practices that do not alienate certain groups of people,” Bradford said.

Shreveport’s police chief also serves as pastor to the Republican Missionary Baptist Church, and Cpl. Angie Willhite, police department spokeswoman, clarified that all of the department’s 15 volunteer chaplains are Christians, according to The Associated Press.

Sam Grover, a FFRF attorney, said that the organization was satisfied with the changes the police department implemented. FFRF is widely known for targeting public schools that incorporate prayer in any event as well as local and federal government figures who openly engage in religious activities.

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