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Ethics and Religion Talk - Defund Police

Rachel asks, “How does the call to defund the police intersect with your faith tradition?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

The Rev. Steven Manskar, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids, responds:

“To protect all persons from encroachment upon their personal and property rights, governments have established mechanisms of law enforcement and courts. A wide array of sentencing options serves to express community outrage, incapacitate dangerous offenders, deter crime, and offer opportunities for rehabilitation. We support governmental measures designed to reduce and eliminate crime that are consistent with respect for the basic freedom of persons. 

“We reject all misuse of these mechanisms, including their use for the purpose of revenge or for persecuting or intimidating those whose race, appearance, lifestyle, economic condition, or beliefs differ from those in authority. We reject all careless, callous, or discriminatory enforcement of law that withholds justice from persons with disabilities and all those who do not speak the language of the country in which they are in contact with the law enforcement. We further support measures designed to remove the social conditions that lead to crime, and we encourage continued positive interaction between law enforcement officials and members of the community at large. 

“In the love of Christ, who came to save those who are lost and vulnerable, we urge the creation of a genuinely new system for the care and restoration of victims, offenders, criminal justice officials, and the community as a whole. Restorative justice grows out of biblical authority, which emphasizes a right relationship with God, self, and community. When such relationships are violated or broken through crime, opportunities are created to make things right. 

“Most criminal justice systems around the world are retributive. These retributive justice systems profess to hold the offender accountable to the state and use punishment as the equalizing tool for accountability. In contrast, restorative justice seeks to hold the offender accountable to the victimized person, and to the disrupted community. Through God’s transforming power, restorative justice seeks to repair the damage, right the wrong, and bring healing to all involved, including the victim, the offender, the families, and the community. The Church is transformed when it responds to the claims of discipleship by becoming an agent of healing and systemic change.”

Father Michael Nasser, who writes from an Eastern Christian perspective and is Pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church, responds:

“Societies of many backgrounds have a common understanding of the state’s governing authority being received from the divine, with the divine right of kings in England and the religious context of the Declaration of Independence being just a few examples. Orthodox Christianity would be ranked among those who believe, as Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, that governing authority comes from God. As such, our tradition would support a level of funding adequate to preserve peace in our society. In our prayers for our civil authorities, we quote St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy (2:1-2) in which he says, ‘First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.’ We support a police force that can fairly and adequately provide the context for freely living out a life of faith.

“Of course, any person in any profession could be tempted to abuse their position and power, and police officers are not immune from this temptation. In any cases where an officer or specific officers have been found to abuse their authority, they should be dealt with specifically But they're particular abuses should not be used to weaken the God-given task of keeping the peace.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“In June of this year at our national General Assembly annual gathering, delegates of the Unitarian Universalist Association voted for its member congregations to find alternatives to policing and to pursue police abolition within Unitarian Universalist justice work. The vote passed with 82% voting yes.”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“There is a strong current of social justice that runs through our tradition, and it calls upon those in power to make appropriate decisions that will benefit humanity.  The assets that are collected in a kingdom, republic, or city, should be used to address a wide variety of needs. These include protection, basic essentials to live (for those in poverty), and judicial administration. If this is out of balance, of course, it should be corrected. But to simply proclaim that the police should be defunded without a clear understanding of the ramifications would be irresponsible. 

“Personally, I do agree that some situations would be better handled by experts in other disciplines, but the funds used to support that initiative needn’t come from at the expense of law enforcement.”


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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