Friday, April 25, 2008

Birmingham Mayor Suggests Prayer, Wearing Sacks to Curb Spate of Homicides

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — "Struggling to confront a worsening homicide rate, the mayor of Birmingham asked pastors and citizens Friday to don burlap sacks and ashes Friday in an Old Testament-style sign of biblical repentance.

Mayor Larry Langford said his "sackcloth and ashes" rally at Boutwell Auditorium was inspired by the Book of Jonah, where residents of the ancient city of Ninevah wore rough fabric and ashes as a sign of turning away from sin.

A pastor who helped organize the rally said Langford purchased 2,000 burlap bags that will be handed out at the event.

"We believe things begin to dramatically change when the mayor, or leader, calls for prayer. I don't think there's ever been a city called to sackcloth and ashes," Green said.

Since he took office last year, Langford has held three prayer rallies as a way of addressing crime and violence. Bibles were handed out at one of the events.

"This city needs to humble itself," said Langford, a professing Christian.

So far this year 27 people have been killed in Birmingham, compared to 19 at the same time last year.

The mayor's prayer rallies may run the potential of creating a dispute over church-state separation. Olivia Turner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Alabama, said the group has had complaints and is discussing the events.

Birmingham city officials have turned to prayer in the past to cope with the city's crime problems.

The former chief, Annetta Nunn, promoted the idea of turning people toward God to quell the violence in the city's neighborhoods, and she instituted a Bible-based plan of civic responsibility for cleaning up rundown neighborhoods.

The current police chief, Langford appointee A.C. Roper, has a lengthy resume that includes being an ordained minister. He was in the military and worked with the Hoover Police Department for nearly two decades.

Roper supports the repentance rally, but he said law enforcement cannot stop there."

Well gee, Chief, perhaps law enforcement should START, then the citizens of Birmingham can STOP seeking supernatural methods to prevent crime.

Ridiculous state of affairs when the police are such non-factors that ancient texts must be dusted off in place of competent law enforcement. Discuss what you need in order to be more effective, and if that doesn't work then let them paint themselves blue if it makes 'em feel better. To date, law enforcement hasn't done much of anything except try to punish the guilty, so saying that you can't "stop there" is as bush league as it is disingenuous.

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