Atheist Group Set to Sue Montgomery, Ala., over Program That Dispatches Trained Clergy to Crime Scenes

by Sterling Beard

An atheist group said yesterday it is preparing to file a lawsuit against the city of Montgomery, Ala., if the city does not end or make more inclusive a program that dispatches clergy to crime scenes to comfort victims.

As of Monday, American Atheists Inc. had drafted the suit and was looking for an Alabama attorney to take the case. Both AAI and the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation have written to the city charging that its Operation Good Shepherd violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the letter, which was dated October 7, AAI said it had received complaints from Alabama residents about the program, which has trained over 30 area pastors, and declared that “any plan by public officials to engage in a scheme to promote Christianity using public funds and public officials” was “blatantly and facially unconstitutional.”

One local pastor who is part of the program, Dwayne Waterford, told that the program isn’t about proselytizing, but about calming those at a crime scene and providing services based upon the requests of victims, such as aiding them in contacting their family.

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