A prominent civil rights group is demanding that an Oklahoma police department immediately stop sharing Bible verses on social media, but officials don’t seem interested in backing down.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has charged that the the Mounds Police Department in Mounds, Oklahoma, has been violating the U.S. Constitution in recent months by sharing Bible verses on the department’s official Facebook page. The ACLU said that sharing sectarian religious material also violates the state’s constitution, KOCO-TV reported.
“Both the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution protect against government officials establishing a state religion,” Brady Henderson, the ACLU of Oklahoma’s legal director, said in a statement. “The exclusive, pervasive promotion of the Christian faith by the Mounds Police Department represents a clear violation of those legal mandates.”
The ACLU’s central argument is that, by sharing material from one specific faith, cops are showing a preference for that faith — in this case Christianity — above any other religion or no religion at all.
This, the organization said, is completely illegal, KOCO noted.
“In addition to the clear violation of one of the central tenets of American government, freedom of religion, the actions of the Mounds Police Department call into question whether or not the department can be trusted to adequately protect all those living under its jurisdiction, including members of minority faiths and those of no religious faith at all,” Henderson’s statement continued. “By establishing a preference for the Christian faith, the department undermines confidence in their ability to perform their duties in a manner consistent with our understanding of one of our most basic and cherished liberties.”
But despite these claims, Mounds Police Chief Antonio Porter seems to have no plans to stop sharing the verses on Facebook.
He told KOTV-TV that he reads a devotional every morning and then posts verses to Facebook in an effort to inject positivity into his community. Porter also said the goal isn’t about picking one religion over another and said he’s more trying to send a message that he’s praying for others.
Psalm 34:4-7I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to him, and were…
“Not so much trying to pick one particular religion but just saying, ‘Hey, I’m praying for you,’” he told KOTV.
And Porter is not alone in defending the Facebook posts, as Mounds City Mayor Rosa Jackson has said that she, too, has no problem with the posts.
“I’m not offended by the postings. As a matter of fact, I appreciate them,” Jackson told KTUL-TV. “If I were offended, and I didn’t like what was being posted, I’d turn it off.”
The mayor said that the posts get people talking and communicating and that it’s good for the community. Some locals also told media that they have no problem with the posts and see the ACLU letter and argument as an attack on their way of life.
“They may have a problem with it, but you have to remember, we’re right in the middle of the Bible belt,” Chad Cantrell said.