A small group of California churches has pledged to stop calling the police for help in emergencies, saying they’ll utilize a “more community-based” crime fighting system. The churches cite the recent slate of extrajudicial killings and sexual assaults by cops as reason for their new policy.
At a press conference this morning, Nichola Torbett, a lay leader at First Congregational Church of Oakland, said: “We are a church that has witnessed and experienced violence from policing systems. Members of our community have been surveilled, harassed and sexually assaulted by law enforcement officers. We feel like we can no longer tolerate the trauma inflicted on our communities by policing systems. Our love for one another and our faith call us to end our participation in systems that pit the safety of some of us against the safety of others.”
Nationwide organization Showing Up for Racial Justice is seeking to mobilize churches across the country to separate themselves from the criminal justice system. Showing Up for Racial Justice is specifically seeking to involve white Americans in the fight for racial justice. (h/t Washington Post)
The group so far includes four churches in California. It’s been a tough ask to expand further.
“It’s a challenging ask,” said Reverend Anne Dunlap, a United Church of Christ minister with SURJ. “It’s a big ask to invite white folks to think differently about what safety means. Should our safety be predicated on violence for other communities?”
Individual members of churches in the movement can call the police to meet any concerns they have, but the churches themselves are working to create a security system in which neighbors make up the heart of the service. Opponents of the movement say the switch exposes the church to danger, and that the church should still be involved with local police as a model for moral influence.