Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Denver Police Department shelves plan to distribute Bibles

The Denver Police Department was prepared to throw the book at scofflaws -- the good book. On September 6, an e-mail went out from Mary Beth Klee, the DPD's deputy chief of administration, that Chief David Quinones had okayed the delivery of "a box of Bibles to each of the six district stations and the HQ Information Desk." Those Bibles were coming from the Gideons, in Denver to distribute Bibles not just to the usual hotels and motels, but police, sheriff and fire departments.

"They have obtained a letter of permission from the Denver city attorney's office to make the distribution," a DPD captain had assured Klee.

But had they? A little investigation seemed in order -- if not by the DPD, then by us.

Here's the e-mail string:
From: Klee, Mary Beth -- DPD Sent: Friday, September 06, 2013 11:07 AM Subject: FW: Bible Distribution

Please see below. Chief Quinones has ok'd the association to deliver a box of Bibles to each of the six district stations and the HQ Information Desk. Please advise your clerks this will be happening over the next several days and make the Bibles available to the officers. Do not hand them out but let them know they are available and free for them to take if they choose to. Thank you.

From: Sich, Sylvia -- DPD Sent: Friday, September 06, 2013 10:47 AM Subject: Bible Distribution

Larry Duland, with the Gideon Bible Association, contacted me. He was referred by Bob Ryan, who heads up the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association and worked closely with me during the DNC. The Gideon Association is in Denver to distribute Bibles to police, sheriff and fire departments, along with hotels and schools. They have obtained a letter of permission from the Denver city attorney's office to make the distribution, and have already worked with the DSD chaplain for distribution to the Sheriffs. The PD chaplains do not want to be involved (unknown reason), so Larry called me asking for advice.

Apparently this event has happened in the past and the association worked with each individual district captain. I do not see a problem with the distribution, they are not handing a Bible to each individual officer; a delivery would be made to a location with the amount needed.

Thoughts on this?

One quick thought occurred to a few officers, who supplied us with the e-mails: Has anyone at the Denver Police Department heard about the separation of church and state?

We thought the Denver City Attorney's Office might have, so contacted City Attorney Doug Friednash to find out about the alleged "letter of permission." And after doing some checking, yesterday he sent us this response:
The City Attorney's Office has not given permission to the Gideon Association to distribute Bibles to our Police, Fire and Sheriff Departments, and no such distribution is taking place. The "letter of permission" that the Gideon Association claimed gave them this authorization said no such thing. It was a letter reiterating the position of this office that a permit is not required to distribute Bibles on public sidewalks.
And at the Denver Department of Public Safety, which oversees the DPD, fire and sheriff's departments, communications director Daelene Mix confirmed that the department had determined that the Gideons did not have appropriate permission, and "no distribution will take place."

We love free reading material as much as the next person: No permit is required to distribute free newspapers, either. And if officers want to keep a Bible in their private arsenal, that's okay with us, too. But on the job, we'd rather have the DPD throwing the book at scofflaws, rather than stocking the good book.

More from the Calhoun Wake-Up Call archive: "Nine new states that could secede from the state."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun