‘In the name of Jesus, step out of your car’
An atheist group in Puerto Rico has lodged a formal complaint against police who subjected motorists to a ‘faith’ blitz on July 1.
In a statement issued yesterday, Elisaul Rodriguez, Vice-President of Ateístas de Puerto Rico (Atheists of Puerto Rico) alleged that a “faith road block” had been set up by Barceloneta City police.
Officers stopped people on the road for the purpose of preaching, distributing written religious propaganda and praying for drivers.
It was a religious activity in which the Christian faith was professed, particularly of an Evangelical variant.
We understand that the Police Department of Barceloneta City has incurred violations to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico …
Article II, Section III says: ‘No law related to the establishment of any religion will be approved and the free exercise of religion will not be prohibited. There will be complete separation of church and state’.
We must also point out that Puerto Rico, as a territory, is under the protection of the Federal Constitution of the United States of America, which also provides a clause for the separation of church and state.
Acts carried out during the “faith road-block” reflected the officers’ personal religious interests and were outside the police departments scope of duty, Rodriguez pointed out. The officers wore their uniforms and badges and:
Used resources provided by the Government of Puerto Rico that should only be used for the purpose of fighting crime, not for personal religious benefits.
This sends the message that the State is Christianizing its citizens, which corresponds to a canonical government and impairs the integrity and impartiality of the State.
We are worried that non-believers and people affiliated to other religions are being forced to stop for no other reason than to be subjected to religious proselytism, carried out by the State, and that they may experience fear of some kind of retaliation, in case they don’t accept this religious indoctrination from law-enforcing agents.
Our organization is composed of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers. It is part of our mission and vision to watch that the constitutional rights of our community are not violated. For this reason we demand the prohibition of religious indoctrination carried out by agents of public service, during labor hours.
The Police Department of Barceloneta City ought to make correct use of its resources, with procedures aligned to the General Orders of the Police of Puerto Rico, which establish that road blocks must make minimal interference and the reasons for stopping a vehicle should be reasonable, always guaranteeing the constitutional rights of our citizens.