SHREVEPORT, La. -- A nationally known anti-religion organization has found Jesus. And they want Him out of the Shreveport Police Department.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Police Chief Ben Raymond, calling for the removal of a framed portrait of Jesus, as well as poetry about Jesus that's visible in common work spaces at police headquarters.
The group says a concerned community member contacted them about it. A source at SPD tells us that the portrait hangs in a secure area of the Property Crimes Detective Division. The public would have to be escorted there to see it.
Brendan Johnson, an attorney for The Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote in the letter to Chief Raymond that the portrait is "in full view of anyone coming in to be interviewed by police."
Johnson went on to write in the letter, dated October 8, that the portrait violates the First Amendment because it "conveys government support for religion." He said it's "divisive" for those who are non-religious.
Johnson added, "These citizens should not be made to feel excluded, like outsiders in their own community, because the law enforcement they support with their taxes prominently displays religious iconography and poetry in its office."
Shreveport Constitutional law attorney Royal Alexander said of the complaint, "Groups like this -- like the ACLU, Freedom From Religion -- tend to send these intimidating letters to brow beat local municipalities, states, any entity that is part of the government arm of the state. They do it because they think people will be scared into moving way further than the law requires them to move."
Alexander says the group misinterprets what the founding fathers intended.
"What they meant was only that we not have a state religion, that everybody doesn't have to be Catholic, or everybody doesn't have to be Methodist, or everybody doesn't have to be Jewish. Aside from that, religion was absolutely to be a part of everyday American life," Alexander said.
Alexander says such complaints will usually lead to a resolution to avoid trial. He has one idea.
Now we're going to go get Abraham Lincoln, and we're going to get MLK, and we're going to get Gandhi. Gandhi, talk about someone who was a selfless soul. Or we're going to get Mother Teresa. Get a photo of Mother Teresa. Now we're just in a room with historical, fabulous people. It's not just Jesus anymore."
Alexander says when he heard about the group's complaint, he contacted Chief Raymond and advised him "not to be intimidated" by their attorney's letter. He says Raymond told him that he would consult with the city's attorneys.
We received no comment from the SPD, Chief Raymond, or the City of Shreveport for this story.