Another ridiculous poll

The Montgomery, Alabama police have pious plan to send out priests along with the police on emergency calls. “Trained” priests, apparently, which means they’re going to be spending money on completely unqualified people who can provide no material assistance to tag along with the police. Why? Because it makes someone in the chain of command feel good, I suppose.

Do you think police should send out trained clergy to violent crime scenes?

No, there should be a separation of religion and government  66.64%

Yes, police and victims need all the help they can get.  29.98%

I don’t care either way.  2.45%

Not sure  1%

The only virtue I could think of is that maybe they’d put a check on the police and prevent them from shooting innocent people, but you don’t need to be a priest to do that.


  1. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    When I am in an emergency situlation, I fail to see what good a priest could do. The last time I called the police, I made use of my roommate’s order of protection. She let her abusive boyfriend back in out apartment. What would a nattering godbot do to take care of the situation.

    My (heathen and godless) friends did more to help me out. They move my stuff out of that place the next day. Would a priest have done that?

  2. gsciacca says

    Yes, there should be separation of church and state, but, more important, clerics don’t do any good.

  3. george gonzalez says

    What? What? There seem to be two holes in this plan:

    Alabama has only like 13% catholics.

    About 95% of police work is scut work, taking burglary reports, cruising around, more cruising, another break-in report, and maybe an occasional domestic where a clergyman might be of some tangential help.

    So you multiply 5% by 13% and hmm, I get that about 0.6% of the time the priest will be of use. Maybe.

  4. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Violent crime? I’d want a fucking doctor. Jesus*.

    * Not Jesus.

  5. robro says

    I suppose they might be useful praying over coffee and donuts.

    There are so many reasons why this would be a bad idea, I can’t imagine the police supporting it. All they need is another potential victim to protect. I’m reminded of War of the Worlds (the movie) when the priest approaches the alien ship holding up his Bible and cross, and then gets zapped.

    george gonzalez—It’s my understanding that domestic disputes are a big part of police work these days, and some of the most dangerous. However, I can’t imagine how a priest might help those situations. Advice on being a better husband and/or wife is about the last people in those situations probably want to hear. They might both have a go at the preacher.

  6. khms says

    My understanding is that over here, so-called “Notfallseelsorger” (Google proposes emergency pastoral, I’m rather skeptic about that one – literally emergency soul carers) are called after bad stuff happens (such as train or bus accidents, bad fires, or just being too late for granddad’s heart attack), to help the survivors. I gather that it’s a church-organized volunteer service, these days trying to include Muslim, but I see no indication they have ever thought about atheists, though they do claim “independent of the beliefs” of the people they’re trying to help.

    If you can read German, there’s an article here: (if you can’t read German, it has a few pictures).

  7. spandrel says

    What about violent crimes committed by vampires or ghosts? I know I’d want someone on the scene with the power to turn the undead and drive away evil spirits.

    At minimum, can we equip the police with holy water squirt guns?

  8. A. Noyd says

    If a church wanted to start (and pay for) a program where its members could call for a priest in an emergency and set up some sort of access deal with the cops, that would be one thing. Not an especially good thing, because what if a domestic abuser called the priest after getting the cops called on them or something? But the cops bringing along a priest? Even religious people should be against that.

  9. Brian Wibecan says

    That poll is down. There is still this poll, asking whether Operation Good Shepherd is unconstitutional. (Gee, you’d think the name of the operation would give them a clue that it might be unconstitutional.)

    Here is an Atlantic article with background information, for those who haven’t been following this nonsense.

  10. Becca Stareyes says

    It’s one thing if the priests kept clergy as part of a list of ‘people who might help you if you were a victim of a violent crime’, along with doctors and secular counselors and all kinds of things I can’t even think about right now. I assume many religious folks have a clergyperson they regularly go to, but maybe they need options or are new to the area.

    Totally different than paying them to come along. What will they do if the victim is an atheist or otherwise acts against their beliefs (rape reports come to mind — while a sympathetic ear is always useful, I don’t trust general clergy to actually be helpful rather than going into victim blaming)?

  11. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    Having called the police as the victim several times for DV and several times with my mother as the victim, HELL NO.

    The fucking police themselves are bad enough. Bringing along another person to spout the status quo, is such a bad, repulsive harmful idea.

    Ughhhhhhhhh. That puts so much more pressure on victims. Who wants to call when you’ll have the cops, the church and God standing there judging you and lecturing you? Like societal pressure isn’t fucking enough?

    Have these people ever fucking thought about DV? Oh, no wait they have, they are just buying into the “It’s just a disagreement. They will work it out just fine. Nothing to see here” narrative.

  12. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    That’s a bad idea in so many ways, I don’t know where to begin.

  13. jagwired says

    Y’all are approaching this from the wrong angle. This isn’t about priests helping out the police. It’s about the police keeping a watchful eye on some well known criminals. What better way to do that than actually having the criminal continuously in the car with you while on your beat.

  14. kantalope says

    911 – what is your emergency? What is your address? Please stay on the line. What is your religion? We will dispatch a unit with your denomination as soon as one becomes available.

  15. sqlrob says

    but, more important, clerics don’t do any good.

    Turn Undead can be useful, and the healing is necessary for any serious party.

  16. robster says

    Specially trained Priests! What they really need is a super Priest with discernible super powers, one that dispenses with the silly hats and colourful robes, replaced with a cape, worn outside undies and a utility belt just like Batman. There was a rock band years ago called Super Jesus, perhaps they could help. Maybe the super priests could wander about showering the bad guys with the jesus wafers with the blood chaser and a quick sermon or some loaves and fishes. The super priests could second as fundraisers for the baby jesus and holy spook which would be popular at this time of year with Halloween coming up.

  17. robro says

    I just had a thought about this program. Could it just be a scheme for the Montgomery to funnel tax money to preachers? The linked article doesn’t mention money, but the article it links to does refer to Operation Good Shepard as a “taxpayer funded program.” It adds that the Montgomery Public Safety Director said “he didn’t know if any pastors had actually been called out to a crime scene since a group of 37 ministers graduated from training in late summer.” So are ministers in this program on call? And more importantly, are they paid to be on call?

  18. muskiet says

    That Salon article is pretty bad PZ.
    Read this onethis one and you’ll see why the cops showed up.
    It was originally reported as a suicide and they have to show up before the ambulance since people with suicide tendencies don’t usually care about the safety of others when they don’t even care about theirs.
    From then on it all looks murkier then the Salon article explains, of course the family will take one side and the cops the other, I really can’t tell from both accounts who’s telling the truth.
    Then the “journalist” throws in the DC mom in her car as a similar incident, you know, the “unarmed” lady.
    That woman was NOT unarmed, she was driving a vehicle and police have to consider that vehicle as a weapon.
    She even used it as such by wounding two officers and at that point I’m perfectly fine with them shooting her before she gets the chance of harming anybody else.

  19. says

    Jadehawk #15

    the last thing you need at the scene of D.V. is a professional member of an organization that opposes divorce


    Also, I noticed these are “trained” priests. Uh, trained to do what, exactly? No, wait, I don’t want to know.

  20. tomtethys says

    A practical idea now the Alabama Police can shoot somebody dead and hold a quick funeral service saving time all round.
    Perhaps the next step is to have a coroner tag along to to exonerate the Police

  21. says


    My understanding is that over here, so-called “Notfallseelsorger”

    The problem is that Germany isn’t a freaking secular country but a god-botherer-infested hive of lip-service piety.
    Now, this is getting ranty, but it absolutely sucks that in a country with roughly 25 million people without any religion and some 6 million muslims every occasion gets a christian service, which is especially fucked-up in case of a tragedy because now the grieving relatives either have to cut themselves off the support or have to take part in the whole bullshit of religious tradition.

  22. opposablethumbs says

    What a load of exploitative bullshit. Taxpayer-funded, too.

    If people are in immediate danger, they need police who are hopefully capable of working to de-escalate the situation and not so fucked-up-macho they actually make things worse.
    If people are in physical pain, they need doctors/nurses/ambulance workers.
    If people are in emotional/mental pain, they need someone trained in the right skills – like a counsellor.
    If people are in disastrous poverty, they need actual help – such as, food and a roof and healthcare and a classroom for their kids …

    Who the fuck needs a god-botherer mouthing platitudes? What a total load of crap. Not to mention that if you don’t share the god-bothering hobby – and the same flavour of god, at that – then all their presence will do is raise your blood-pressure even further. Ugh.

  23. Usernames are smart says

    ~ since people with suicide [sic] tendencies don’t usually care about the safety of others when they don’t even care about theirs.
    — muskiet (#25)

    You want to cite some credible source for your assertion? Or are you pulling this “fact” out of your large intestine?

    A classmate of mine in College–his name was Eric–threw himself off a building, killing only himself. A friend of mine’s father used a revolver to kill only himself, also. Neither of these people put anyone else at (physical) risk with their actions.

  24. David Marjanović says

    No, there should be a separation of religion and government 85.34% (3,098 votes)

    Yes, police and victims need all the help they can get. 12.92% (469 votes)

    I don’t care either way. 1.05% (38 votes)

    Not sure 0.69% (25 votes)

    Total Votes: 3,630

  25. David Marjanović says

    That poll is down.

    Not true.

    There is still this poll, asking whether Operation Good Shepherd is unconstitutional.


    YES 29%
    NO 64%
    UNSURE 7%

    No number of votes given.

    people with suicide tendencies don’t usually care about the safety of others when they don’t even care about theirs


    Suicide isn’t usually a reckless action! It’s usually planned! What are you talking about!?!