A Model of Sensitivity, or a Violation of the Constitution? Koran in New York Police Station Stirs Controversy

November 7, 2003

Source: New York Newsday


On November 7, 2003 New York Newsday reported that "a Koran installed in the lobby of police headquarters has raised concerns about a breach in the constitutional wall separating church and state, and underscores the influential role religion plays in the culture of the department... The Koran is displayed atop a brass pedestal and ensconced in a glass cube in front of the official police seal near the Hall of Heroes. Traditionally, the department, staffed by a majority of Irish and Italian police officers, was considered a de facto Catholic organization. But the installation of the Koran speaks to a more recent development and equally powerful force — the push for diversity and an attempt to be sensitive at a time when global events have caused Muslims and Arabs to be cast under suspicion... Donna Lieberman, the New York Civil Liberties Union executive director, said no matter what its intentions are, the city can not violate the separation of church and state. 'I think that the government, including the Police Department, cannot engage in religious promotion,' she said. 'There's a vast difference between promoting religion and in educating police officers about religions so that they understand and are sensitive to various values and beliefs.'"