The police department in the small town of Opp, Alabama, has come under fire for blaming recent violence in the town on young people rejecting God and embracing Satan, the Birmingham News is reporting.
Opp, which sits on the Alabama-Florida border — and which has a population of about 6,500 — has seen better days. Beset by poverty and crime, the town has an alarmingly high murder rate for such a small city. What’s more, the past few weeks have seen a surge in homicides — homicides committed by teenagers and young adults.
In a Facebook post made on Tuesday, December 18, which appears to have since been deleted, the Opp Police Department wrote that the murder problem in the town, and the surrounding county, stems from the young people of the community rejecting God and embracing Satan.
“These murders have been done by our young people. This is happening because we have turned away from God and embraced Satan… There are sheep, there are wolves, and there are sheep dogs. Which group do you belong to?”
The post caught the attention of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which sent a letter to Opp Police Chief Michael McDonald asking them to retract the Facebook post, which the law enforcement agency appears to have done.
In the letter, written and signed by FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover, the writer notes that it is indeed “appropriate and important” that the Police Department acknowledge its murder problem. However, the letter also claims that the part of the Facebook post that invokes God at once “promotes one specific religious belief and derides another.”
“We write to ensure that the department take down its promotion of religion (and contempt for one specific religion – Satanism) and cease including religious remarks in social media posts.”
The letter also called the post “illegal,” and pointed to the Constitution’s so-called “Establishment Clause,” which prohibits the government from endorsing a religion. The letter also provided a list of court cases that have found other police departments in violation of the law for promoting religion.
Writing on Patheos, “The Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta agreed with the FFRF’s sentiment.
“So unless God is taking over the department, or unless Satan fesses up to these crimes, these officials should do their job instead of using their official platforms to promote their faith… Whoever runs this department’s social media has no idea what church/state separation is. Maybe that person should talk to someone who knows the law.”
As of this writing, the Opp Police Department has not responded to requests for comment.