Illinois City Chaplaincy Draws AU Complaint

Americans United has called on an Illinois city council to end a chaplaincy program because of its negative implications for church-state separation.

In mid September, AU's legal department sent a letter to the Harvey, Ill., mayor warning that a recently announced chaplaincy program runs afoul of the First Amendment principle of church-state separation. The chaplains are intended to counsel citizens and serve as liaison between the police and the community.

"The chaplaincy program endorses religion because it communicates a message that life problems call for 'spiritual guidance,' " wrote AU Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser and AU Madison Fellow Sandi Farrell. "While many people do choose to handle personal difficulties by consulting with a pastor or other clergy members, many others deal with crises in a variety of other ways that do not involve religion or consultation with religious leaders."

Mayor Eric Kellogg has maintained that government should be more involved with religion. He told the Chicago Tribune that "it's the responsibility of the schools and the government to provide knowledge in this area."