Taxpayer Money Used To Fund Orlando Police Department Chaplain Program

| by Arthur Kogan
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Members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) are appalled that $25,000 of government taxpayer money was used to fund the chaplain program of the Orlando Police Department.

The FFRF sent an open records request to the police department and received the information.

The FFRF discovered that the Orlando Police Department spent over $15,000 on a new Ford Focus for chaplain use and nearly $1,400 was spent on a vinyl wrap used for the new car. This is in addition to the hundreds they have spent on uniforms, $1,000 in dues to the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC) and $1,000 for food, lodging and travel.

"It's appalling that taxpayers are footing this bill," said FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel. "Surely that money could be better spent, perhaps organizing actual qualified counselors for OPD employees."

Siedel explains that the Florida Constitution does not allow for government revenue to be taken from the treasury if it is "directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution." Siedel is looking in the process of investigating this church/state entanglement.

The funding is not the only issue that Siedel is questioning. The FFRF explained that: “Also significant are the records FFRF did not receive: no training materials, guidance documents, regulations, or other policies for chaplains were provided. Either the department did not fully comply with FFRF's records request, in violation of the Florida Sunshine Law, or the chaplain program has no formal regulation of or training for chaplains. FFRF is following up with the department on these matters.”

"A U.S. police department, which exists to enforce our secular laws, should take great care not to appear to be sending a message that the police force is Christian in nature, or exists to serve Christians over other citizens, or Christian police officers over non-Christian police officers," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

There is no doubt that the chaplain does in fact help people in Orlando, and that is certainly not being questioned. The issue of taxpayer money being used to fund an expensive program that provides religious counseling to citizens is a potential lawsuit waiting to happen.

Sources: Freedom For Religion Foundation, FFRF Request, OPD Response, Patheos 

Photo Source: Wikipedia, FFRF