A Spiritual Mandate to Invest in Black Lives: Confronting Contradictions at the National Law Enforcement Retreat

Right now over 250 law enforcement officials from across the country are gathered at the Billy Graham Center, a right-wing Christian Evangelical institution in the South, at a retreat focused on addressing “the spiritual needs” of police officers. We, as SONG members and as queer people of conscience living in the South, have decided to gather outside of this retreat under a very different spiritual mandate: to say the names of Keith Lamont Scott, Jerry “Jai” Wiliams, Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, and the many other Black people whose names we may never know who have died at the hands of the police. We refuse to honor the use of faith and spirituality to condone police violence.

We come with a spiritual mandate to fight for Black lives in this time, and we believe that none of us are free until all of us are free. We are here to mourn those we have lost, those of us terrorized and harmed by the same police who claim to protect us, and to fight like hell for the living – for communities where we all can live free from fear. We are here to hold law enforcement and the Evangelical Christians who are hosting them accountable. When will you atone for the violence and the blood on your hands? Which side are you on?

Last year over 1,200 lives were lost at the hands of the police across the U.S. Young Black men are 5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men of the same age. Twenty-seven people have died at the hands of the police in North Carolina in 2016 so far. As queer people of conscience, we say enough is enough.

The real moral and spiritual question of this time is: how will we stop police violence? How are we defending the sanctity of life for Black people, for immigrants, for poor people, for trans and queer people, for people with disabilities and with mental illness?

We are calling on all people of faith and people of conscience across the South to take a stand by demanding an end to police violence and terror and say that we will not harbor police in the name of spirituality. We believe in a South where no one is disposable, and we are prepared to fight for our freedom.

As SONG Co-Director Mary Hooks tells us: “Every generation has a demand. This is a different moment!” We call to DIVEST from police, DIVEST from prisons and cages! We call for a different vision of public safety. This January, SONG will call for a day of action to divest from police and invest in Black communities. Stay tuned.

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