The absurdly vile and perpetually smug Freedom From Religion Foundation claims to have just given a Florida police chief “constitutional lessons” following a clearly contentious departmental awards ceremony last month.
The offending event? It was an awards ceremony for officers, which just happened to be held in the multi-purpose building of a seminary.
Seriously. That’s it.
Oh, and because they actually dared to take two minutes out of an otherwise secular, non-religious ceremony to offer an invocation. Which is apparently all it takes to cause militant atheists’ heads to spin around and explode.
So with nothing better to do with their time, the FFRF sent a letter to the Oviedo Police Department explaining that "It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that that the government cannot promote, advance or otherwise endorse religion.”
“Allowing prayer at an awards ceremony sends the message that the police department not only prefers religion over nonreligion, but also Christianity over other faiths," FFRF claimed. The group was also beside themselves because the ceremony “discriminated” against non-religious attendees who were “forced to enter a Christian house of worship.”
Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the “free-thought” group’s letter is the fact that they sent it to Police Chief Jeffrey Chudnow – who’s Jewish. And also fairly articulate.
“Our Annual Awards Ceremony and Career Track Recognition was not held in a church,” Chudnow pointed out in his written response to FFRF. “Yes, the even was held at the Reformed Theological Seminary complex, but in a multi-purpose room and not a religious sanctuary.”
“Finally, as a practicing member of the Jewish faith, I was not offended by the invocation, nor did I receive any complaints from any attendees,” Chudnow added.
Not to be deterred from their mission to make the world a sadder, more divided place, FFRF rebutted Chudnow’s seemingly legitimate response, claiming that “the fact that OPD did not ‘have any intention of establishing of any religion’ is irrelevant. The inclusion of an invocation at an official OPD ceremony gives the impression that the OPD—and, hence the government—endorses religion.”
Never mind that both Republican and Democratic conventions begin with an invocation. And pretty much every public funeral and memorial service, wreath-laying ceremony, monument dedication and military event. As well as every single presidential inauguration since the 1930s. And once a year, we even observe a National Day of Prayer.
But forget that. Angry atheists are going after the police department of a 37,000-person town in Florida. After all, it takes a lot of nerve to call upon a higher power for help and protection over those charged with putting themselves in harm’s way and defending our communities.
And as for all those people who didn’t complain when they were obviously offended by the brief appeal to a deity? FFRF’s Andrew Seidel explained, “Those offended by the invocation, marginalized by the display of state-sanctioned religion at a secular awards ceremony, would not seek redress from OPD and risk making themselves targets for ridicule or persecution.”
Well, that must be it. Everyone who was mortally offended by the brief prayer and outrageous physical proximity to a religious institution -- which was probably everyone, seriously -- was simply too cowed by the power and might of a voluntary police ceremony that they didn’t dare voice their discomfort.
Poor, disenfranchised atheists.
Might we suggest a better use of time and effort to our weak-kneed and clearly under-occupied friends at FFRF? I hear there are some babies out there walking around with too much candy.