I am not in the habit of agreeing with atheists—I just want to make that clear—and I’m almost never in agreement with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and yet here we are.
Three week ago, a police department in Crandall, Texas decided to jump into this “lip-sync challenge” that’s all the rage for reasons unknown to me. Essentially, dozens of police departments have been posting videos of their officers lip-syncing to various popular songs. However, the officers in Crandall decided to up their game by doing their video to the Newsboys’ song “God’s Not Dead,” which means that this song has inspired a fourth unfortunate video release.
The problem with doing this, besides the tackiness of the whole thing, is that it’s honestly a violation of the separation of Church and State.
Here’s how the FFRF put it in their statement:
Citizens interact with and rely on law enforcement officers during some of the most urgent and vulnerable times of their lives. Law enforcement must be even-handed and avoid any appearance of bias toward some citizens or hostility toward others…Government employees can worship, pray, or read any religious text they wish when acting in their personal capacities. But they are not permitted to provide prestige to their personal religion through the machinery of a government office. The police department belongs to “We the people,” not the department’s temporary occupants.
-FFRF (emphasis added)
It’s that last part that we should start with. Public servants do not own their positions. They are temporary placeholders. Stewards. Eventually, someone else will fill their spot. This goes for presidents, congresspeople, judges, and even police officers and teachers. Most conservative Christians would be aghast if a police force comprised of Muslims did a lip-synch to a Muslim pop song.
Going back to the beginning part of FFRF’s argument, Christians would likewise claim persecution if they were arrested and investigated by a police department that publicly, proudly, professed their allegiance to Allah.
The point here is not that we should not share our faith, but that we must do it in a way that is appropriate, un-antagonistic, and fair. Beyond that, we should ask, “How would I feel, as a Christian, if a non-Christian did the same thing in this public position?”
Crandall Police Chief Dean Winters has defended the choice to film the video, of course, saying that his faith in Jesus “enhances” his ability to perform his duties, according to a Christian Post article. While I’m inclined to agree because I know the same is true for me, that doesn’t give us the right to use our position to promote our faith or to conflate our public service with our personal faith.
And note that word choice, please. “Personal” faith is not necessarily private, but it is reserved for our role as private citizens, not public employees.