The mayor of the crime-ridden Chicago suburb of Harvey has asked six Christian ministers to help, the Associated Press reports. Mayor Eric Kellogg appointed the volunteer chaplains to comfort crime victims and promote neighborhood activism in the poverty-stricken town of 30,000.
Kellogg said the ministers’ unpaid duties do not violate the separation of church and state because they do not proselytize. “We’re not dealing with separation. We’re dealing with collaboration,” Kellogg said.
The American Civil Liberties Union worries that a line has nonetheless been crossed. “Our major concern is that this really amounts to a government promotion of religious values, and a particular religious value,” said the ACLU’s Ed Yohnka. The ACLU will study the arrangement before deciding whether to bring a legal challenge.
The Rev. Lance Davis, chaplain for the First Ward, said police are overwhelmed and need help:
“Eleven murders last year, over 800 car thefts. Nearly 1,000 assaults. Forty-two rapes. In a town that’s six square miles with 30,000 residents, that’s totally unacceptable.”