Uniquely Qualified: The Constitutionality of Police and Clergy Alliances

36 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2013 Last revised: 24 Jun 2020

See all articles by Nicholas Reaves

Nicholas Reaves

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Date Written: December 17, 2013


In October 2013, the American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation both threatened to sue Montgomery, Alabama over a controversial new initiative: Operation Good Shepherd. This initiative was designed by the city to leverage the resources of local clergy to help prevent crime and comfort victims and their families at crime scenes. While Operation Good Shepherd has received significant media attention following the publication of a September 2013 article in The Atlantic magazine questioning its constitutionality, it is not unique. Dozens of police departments in the past few decades have been teaming up with local clergy to create so-called “police and clergy alliances.”

This Note will analyze the constitutionality of Operation Good Shepherd and similar police and clergy alliances by applying several of the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause tests to different aspects of the program. This Note will then argue that police and clergy alliances do not violate the Establishment Clause so long as volunteers respect the programs’ secular purposes and refrain from proselyting or talking about religious issues without the consent of program beneficiaries.

Keywords: Police and Clergy Alliance, Crisis Chaplaincy, Establishment Clause, Chaplain

Suggested Citation

Reaves, Nicholas, Uniquely Qualified: The Constitutionality of Police and Clergy Alliances (December 17, 2013). Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2368962 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2368962

Nicholas Reaves (Contact Author)

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

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