On July 3, 2015 Ateístas de Puerto Rico (Atheists of Puerto Rico) filed a complaint in the Office of the General Comptroller of Puerto Rico, received and read by Egda Magaly Pagán Rivera. The complaint has also been made in the Office of Gubernatorial Ethics of Puerto Rico on July 6, as a consequence of the so-called “faith road-block” carried out by the Police Department of Barceloneta City on July 1st, on the street 140, under the bridge of the PR-22 highway, near the Barceloneta Prime Outlets shopping mall.
During the “faith road-block”, officers stopped people on the road for the purpose of preaching, distributing written religious propaganda and praying for drivers. It was a religious activity in which the Christian faith was professed, particularly of an Evangelical variant.
We understand that the Police Department of Barceloneta City has incurred violations to the Constitution of the Common Wealth of Puerto Rico, which provides a clause for the separation of church and state, with quite a strong language. Article II Section III says: “No law related to the establishment of any religion will be approved and the free exercise of religion will not be prohibited. There will be complete separation of church and state”. We must also point out that, as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is under the protection of the Federal Constitution of the United States of America, which also provides a clause for the separation of church and state.
The acts during the “faith road-block” reflect the officers’ personal religious interests and are outside the scope of duties of law-enforcing agents. The officers wore their uniforms and badges, and the event was carried out on labor hours, which are funded by the public treasury, for purposes that do not advance the mission and vision of the Police Department nor the interests of the State or of the city’s administration.
The evidence that we have compiled show that the officers used resources provided by the Government of Puerto Rico, that should only be used for the purpose of fighting crime, not for personal religious benefits. This sends the message that the State is Christianizing its citizens, which corresponds to a canonical government. This impairs the integrity and impartiality of the State.
It could also represent a violation of the citizen’s right to intimacy. We are worried that non-believers and people affiliated to other religions are being forced to stop for no other reason than to be subjected to religious proselytism, carried out by the State, and that they may experience fear of some kind of retaliation, in case they don’t accept this religious indoctrination from law-enforcing agents.
Our organization is composed of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers. It is part of our mission and vision to watch that the constitutional rights of our community are not violated. For this reason we demand the prohibition of religious indoctrination carried out by agents of public service, during labor hours. The Police Department of Barceloneta City ought to make correct use of its resources, with procedures aligned to the General Orders of the Police of Puerto Rico, which establish that road blocks must make minimal interference and the reasons for stopping a vehicle should be reasonable, always guaranteeing the constitutional rights of our citizens.
Vice-President of A.P.R.
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