Opp, AL – A rural Alabama police department that blamed Satan for the town’s homicides is facing criticism for failing to separate government and religion.
The Opp Police Department posted the religion-laden, all-caps message to its Facebook page on Tuesday, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
“There have been five murders in Covington County in 2018,” the since-deleted post read. “These murders have been done by our young people.”
“This is happening because we have turned away from God and embraced Satan,” the department said. “We may have not meant to do it, but have. It is time to ask for God’s help to stop this.”
The agency also implored adults to “be parents and raise [your] children,” and to “fully support law enforcement and stand by the officers and deputies that are far too often having to walk into these dangerous situations and clean up the mess.”
“It’s time to stand up and be responsible,” the post read.
On Wednesday, the FFRF sent a letter to Opp Police Department administrators regarding “citizen concerns over religious promotion on the department’s Facebook page.”
“Our purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters related to nontheism,” the letter read. “The department’s promotion and rejection of specific religious beliefs – turning toward ‘GOD’ and away from ‘SATAN” – is illegal.”
“Our Constitution’s Establishment Clause…dictates that the government cannot in any way endorse religion,” the FFRF argued. “By including religious messages in this otherwise important post, the department conveys a message to those who do not believe in ‘GOD’ that they are not ‘favored members of the political community.’”
Because the Opp Police Department “decried Satanism,” excluded “minority religions and atheism,” and “directly endorsed” a single religious ideology, they needlessly alienated citizens with different beliefs, and “turned them into outsiders in their own community,” the FFRF wrote.
“It is the height of hypocrisy to call for a reduction in crime through an act that itself breaks the law,” the FFRF said.
The letter demanded that the department remove the religious references in the post, and that it refrain from posting similar ideology in the future.
“There is no need to expose the department and the City of Opp to…liability by creating the appearance of religious favoritism by the department,” the letter read. “Please inform us in writing of the steps taken to respect the rights of conscience of all Opp residents, regardless of their personal religious or nonreligious beliefs.”
The department ultimately deleted the post, but has not responded to requests for comment, the Associated Press reported.
“Good morning friends. TGIF,” the department’s Facebook post read on Friday morning.