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Thursday, August 25, 2011

ACLU Protests Plans to Hold Bernalillo County Deputies Graduation in Legacy Church

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico released a statement announcing that it has sent a letter (pdf) today to Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston protesting plans to hold the only graduation ceremony for new County deputies at Legacy Church in Albuquerque. The ceremony will take place at 1:30 PM this Friday, August 26, at the church located on Central Avenue NW (see invitation).  According to biographical information posted on the County’s website, Houston worked as Legacy Church’s director of security “for several years” before becoming County Sheriff. Like Houston, BCSO Captain Scott Baird also is a member of the Legacy Church.

“Government officials should not use their official positions to promote their personal religious beliefs,” said ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson in the written statement. “Sheriff Houston evidently has a close relationship with Legacy Church. If he wants to encourage people to follow his faith, he should do it outside of the work context and should not use the authority of his position to require new deputies to attend the only official graduation ceremony in his place of worship.”

The ACLU’s letter cites multiple legal cases in which courts held that no government entity “can force [or] influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will.”  The letter ends with the request that Sheriff Houston identify a new, non-religious location for the August 26th graduation ceremony.

Simonson said, “It is hard to believe that there were no non-religious sites available to hold this event.  Why put the County in the position of discriminating among different faiths? Inevitably the Sheriff is going to alienate some deputies and their families who do not subscribe to his particular religious beliefs and cause them to fear retaliation if they voice their concerns to their new bosses.” 

August 25, 2011 at 04:00 PM in Bernalillo County, Civil Liberties, Law Enforcement, Religion | Permalink


It's too bad they found out and moved so late in the game -- the ceremony is tomorrow! it will be hard to publicize and set up another place in time. Why didn't they just use the Kiva Auditoruim at the Convention Center, or a school or County facility?

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Aug 25, 2011 6:27:04 PM

Simonson has a very weak record on these kinds of things, especially in San Juan County, where he has repeatedly declined to take action even in areas strongly encouraged by the National ACLU. The latest such case is the Ten Commandments monument in front of the City Hall in Bloomfield. It is too bad the state board imagines they have a separate mission from the national.

Posted by: Art Jaquez | Aug 26, 2011 2:08:23 PM

Historically, the slide into theocracy has always been bloody and cruel.
This is our civilian police force.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 26, 2011 4:22:41 PM