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The National Atheist Party (NAP) applauds Puerto Rico police officer and open atheist Alvin Marrero-Méndez who stood up for his First Amendment rights by refusing to pray to a god he does not believe in; and supports the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) filing of its complaint in the United Stated District Court on Marrero-Méndez’ behalf against the Puerto Rico Police Department.

Per the complaint, Méndez was in formation with other officers in a shopping mall parking lot, being briefed on an intervention plan for his service area. Area Commander Guillermo Calixto-Rodríguez conducted the briefing.

At the end of the briefing, Commander Rodríguez called for a closing prayer. Marrero-Méndez told the commander that he was not comfortable participating in a prayer and correctly indicated that such action was in violation of department regulation. The commander then publicly humiliated Méndez in front of his fellow officers and citizens.

It is alleged that due to not being of the Christian faith and his filing of a formal complaint with the Puerto Rico Police Department, the 13-year veteran was demoted from street officer to “the airport station to perform vehicle-maintenance tasks.” In essence, a car washer.

The NAP agrees with the court filing that Marrero-Méndez was subject to “unwanted religious exercise and messages sponsored by Department officials,” and that the Commander’s primary purpose was to promote his religious beliefs as the command’s beliefs. The result caused Méndez “severe mental distress, anguish, humiliation, and shame.”

This is a clear violation of Puerto Rico Revised Statute and of Marrero-Méndez’ civil rights as deemed in the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The First Amendment provides that an individual may maintain any religious belief he or she wishes, including the right not to believe in any faith; to be an a-theist. In addition, a state or, as in this case, a commonwealth of the United States, cannot sponsor a religious belief. The actions of the Puerto Rico Police Department and its management were in clear violation of this constitutional provision.

“A person in a position of power that uses that position as an opportunity and a platform for proselytizing their religion is guilty of the most egregious kind of religious harassment,” says Troy Boyle, President of the National Atheist Party. “Many officers might feel that they have to feign worship of the Commander’s ‘god’ in order to retain their position, particularly after this officer’s public upbraiding and subsequent change in duties. The NAP vehemently opposes this specific kind of workplace indoctrination.”

“There is much more to this lawsuit than religious discrimination,” says David Rosman, author and lecturer on the religiosity of America and NAP’s Missouri Assistant State Leader, “it is the basis for today’s battles against religious discrimination of any kind.”

Rosman continued that it is not all western faiths in general, but primarily the religious-right who incorrectly believes that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and, therefore, they are somehow above U.S. law.

The NAP urges the Commonwealth to discipline Commander Rodríguez and the other defendants in this case for their failure to comply with Commonwealth and Federal law.

The NAP urges the Commonwealth to publicly apologize to Officer Marrero-Méndez and his family for the actions of the PRPD’s commanders and ranking officers, and reinstate him to his duties as a street officer and receive any lost compensation, as well as any other penalty the court decides.

The NAP urges the Commonwealth and the courts to implement a training program to help prevent this type of discrimination from happening again.

The National Atheist Party is a non-profit, 527 political organization devoted to issue advocacy and guided by the values of secular humanism and evidence-based reasoning. The party seeks to politically represent U.S. atheists and all who share the goal of a secular government by gathering the political strength of secularists nationwide.

Originally posted to Secular Party of America on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  It seems that (4+ / 0-)

    religious fundamentalists think God wants them to impose their beliefs on others and that this places them above any principles of law or any need to act with consideration and respect toward any who may not share their views.

    The commander had every right to hold a private prayer outside of work activity for any like minded fellow officers. This is never enough for the zealots however. They always seem to think it is ok to arrogate special privileges for their own particular belief system. The right of a citizen to not have religion impose on them by state authority is basic to  consititutional governance. I hope the courts recognize this in the current case they are considering.

    The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

    by Pirogue on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 08:24:47 AM PDT

    •  It doesn't seem that way, it IS that way. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      When I first joined DKos my sig line was American christians are becoming less of either. Nothing has changed to cause me to reconsider that statement.

      Not this mind and not this heart, I won't rot • Mumford & Sons

      by jayden on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 10:35:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The "seems" was intended (0+ / 0-)

        to be rhetorical and I do agree with but we must be careful to distinguish between those fundamentalists who demand privileges for their stilted belief system and the more reasonable members of the various religions.  When criticizing activities like this I always try to add a qualifier to indicate that it is not all inclusive of everyone who is a practicing believer, whether Christian or otherwise.

        As a non-theist I think we do a disservice to reasonable religious people and also to ourselves if our condemnation if too pervasive. I don't have to share a person's unwavering belief in the transcendent to respect and sometimes even admire it, even while I reserve the right to explain why I think it is mistaken.

        The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

        by Pirogue on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 02:27:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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