The McPherson City Commission signed a resolution on Monday affirming the constitutional validity of the McPherson police chaplaincy program.
The affirmation comes after the McPherson police department received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation in early December, questioning the constitutional validity of the chaplaincy program. The foundation, an organization that backs the separation of church and state, accused the McPherson police chaplaincy program of "holding religious figures as their official agents of comfort and counsel to people, especially those that have recently experienced a trauma and are psychologically vulnerable."
Mayor Tom Brown gave a public statement on Dec. 10 backing the program, saying the program has received a lot of support.
City attorney Jeffery Houston said the goal of the ordinance is to add refinements and protections to the program against any legal scrutiny.
"It is my legal opinion that this document meets all constitutionally valid requirements," Houston said.
Houston said the chaplaincy program will operate much as it has in the past. The position is unpaid and voluntary, and volunteers don't need to be ordained ministers. They must have a counseling background, and the decision on numbers is ultimately up to Chief Robert McClarty.
As part of the program, chaplains are not allowed to advance any particular religion or denomination, and must report directly to the chief of police or the appointed designee.
Brown said the city commission reviewed each page of the manual for the program before coming to an agreement.