The police department that wrongly fired Breonna Taylor, who died in her own apartment in 2020, had trained her officers just three years earlier that they were avengers who wrought “the wrath of God upon the evildoer”.
New reporting from the Louisville, Ky., independent newspaper LEO documents that in 2017, Louisville Metro Police applied a Bible verse to a mandatory firearms training course. The verse from Romans 13:4 was superimposed on a “thin blue line” flag as the final image in the training slideshow.
Federal law prohibits the promotion of one religious ideology over others, which generally means that government agencies cannot use religious texts in their training, especially not as justification for their work.
Not only is it a violation principles of the separation of church and state, it also illustrates a dangerous tendency to associate the police with a divine mandate, according to Aaron Griffith, assistant professor of history at Whitworth University and author of The Law and Order of God: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America. Griffith is also a public member of the Public Religion Research Institute.
Writing for the Religion & Politics website, Griffith says the Louisville formation “reflects other forms of Christian influence in modern American law enforcement, such as police-themed Bibles, retreats and Christian police formations, and similar blue-hued religious emblems. Critics have argued that this influence poses a threat to the separation of church and state. For police ministries and Christian supporters , however, the connection between faith and policing serves to provide officers with a sense of divine purpose in the face of trauma and criticism.But this connection also threatens to obscure the problems of the profession, to reinforce the power of the police and to shut down other possibilities for solving America’s social problems and inequalities.
The Bible verse in question says: “For he is the servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for he does not carry the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who executes the wrath of God on the malefactor.
This verse appears in a writing attributed to the Apostle Paul, who addressed the early Christians living in the Roman Empire, urging them to accept even the Roman lords as “God-appointed” authorities.
The LEO The article quotes Andrew Whitehead, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, as saying, “The message conveyed by the use of verse in training has potentially dangerous consequences. It seems really dangerous to instill this idea that they are agents of God and of God’s wrath. As citizens, it is disturbing with what we have seen in the past with the police services.
“If there are police officers who see themselves as agents of God’s wrath, will they be more likely to use violence in a situation than not? I think these are questions that should be asked by them and hopefully by other citizens,” said Whitehead, co-author of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.
Promote law enforcement because the agents of God’s wrath seem especially threatening to people of color, who data shows are disproportionately arrested by police, abused by police, and shot by police.
Bruce Williams, senior pastor of Bates Memorial Baptist Church in the Smoketown community of Louisville, said LEO he finds the use of the verse by the Louisville police to be an example of “weaponizing the scriptures”.
“It’s further proof of what’s in America’s DNA,” he said. “And it’s a story of scriptures weaponized to sometimes justify violence and damnable ends.”
Otherwise, how could this bible verse were used at this training event or previous events is unclear. A Louisville Metro Police Department spokesperson declined to comment. LEO.
“Police trainers better quote Jean-Baptiste in training,” said Chris Sanders, a Louisville attorney and lifelong Baptist. “Soldiers, law enforcers of their time, came to John worried for their souls. The Scripture says: ‘The soldiers also asked him: ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And John said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusations, and be content with your wages.’ Wouldn’t that be a better message to pass on to new recruits about community policing? »
A 2021 PRRI poll found that white Americans are much more likely than Americans who identify as another race to say police killings of African Americans are isolated incidents rather than part of a larger picture. model of police treatment of African Americans. White Americans are three times more likely than Black Americans to view them as isolated incidents.
The group most likely to see police brutality against black citizens as isolated incidents are Republicans who most trust far-right media (91%) and Fox News (88%) for television news.
Search by Washington Post shows that police are known to have shot 1,055 people nationwide in 2021, the highest rate since tracking began in 2015.
The nonprofit group Mapping Police Violence says black people accounted for 27% of people fatally shot by police in 2021, even though black people make up just 13% of the US population. The group claims that black citizens are twice as likely as white citizens to be shot by police.
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