POLICE AND JUDICIAL ABUSE OF LAW AND FREEDOM
A Public Statement by the Parliament of the World’s Religions
Recent and recurring events across the United States that have raised questions about the role and responsibilities of the police and judicial officials and the permissible latitude of their actions within the law should be cause for serious reflection, including religious reflection, on how both order and freedom must be honored in contemporary society.
Law as an operative principle and expression of order serves an essential role in both sacred and secular realms, just as freedom plays a key function on behalf of change in these spheres. In both religious and civic life, order and freedom have a universal character, which assumes an equality of application. The breaking of law and the abuse of freedom invite disruption and even disintegration in the lives of individuals and societies.
Those entrusted with the provision of law enforcement and the protection of freedom, therefore, play extraordinarily important functions for human beings and in human communities. The duties assigned to judicial and police officers include not just the enforcement of the law but also the provisions for public safety, the promotion of peace, and the protection of individual and group rights. In carrying out these fundamental functions and often times dangerous duties, these public servants deserve respect and compliance.
But public agents of law and freedom cannot themselves engage in the violation of laws or the excesses of freedom and still expect to receive respect and compliance. These public agents cannot be permitted to be exceptions to the provisions of laws and freedoms that apply universally to those they are called to serve. More importantly, such violations and excesses by public agents of law and freedom have disastrous consequences for the social order, for the common good, and for human flourishing in its many forms.
The recent events of this kind in the United States must be addressed by both religious and civic communities. This is especially the case when the violation of laws and the excesses of freedom by public agents continue to be directed against members of groups who have historically been subject to abuse by overt actions or neglect.
Besides the growing number of individual incidents of injury and death by police officers against persons of color, a recent media report told of a million and a half African American men who were missing in the United States because of early deaths and incarceration.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions decries this condition of abuse and neglect across the world and in the United States. The Parliament calls on people of faith and conscience everywhere to join together in interfaith movements committed to the universal and equal protection of just laws and human freedoms and to a non-violent mobilization for justice, compassion, and peace.