APD chaplain's unit called unconstitutional

Posted at: 09/03/2013 7:02 PM
Updated at: 09/04/2013 1:57 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

ALBUQUERQUE -- A national group wants the Albuquerque Police Department to disband its chaplain's unit, calling it unfair and unconstitutional.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the issues are separation of church and state, and discrimination against those with no religion. The group, based in Madison, Wis., has members in Albuquerque.

The chaplains are mostly volunteers. They pray and counsel with police officers and crime victims and families that have lost loved ones in horrible accidents or crimes. The Freedom From Religion group says the chaplains aren't any help to people with no religion.

"They will tell you it's all part of God's plan, these things happen, there are no accidents, everything happens for a reason," said Andrew Seidel, staff attorney for the Foundation. "Claims like that are not helpful to the non-religious and the non-believing. We find them extremely callous."

Recent census numbers show about one-fifth of American adults do not practice any religion.

The Freedom From Religion group sent the mayor's office a letter asking for the chaplain's unit to cease operations. Top-ranking officers at APD want to see the letter and consider the constitutional issues before responding.