Violent crime in Louisville, Ky., is on the rise. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s solution? Pray.
According to the Courier-Journal report, Bevin (R) urged faith leaders and residents to “take a 10-block span, walk corner to corner, and pray with the community two to three times a week during the next year.”
“That’s it,” Bevin reportedly said of his suggestion to form prayer patrols, even telling people that they can call his office to let his staff know which block they’re covering. “Pretty unsophisticated, pretty uncomplicated, pretty basic, but I truly believe we’re going to see a difference in our city.”
His simplistic suggestion was met with mixed reactions. Aside from the concerns raised about a public official directing citizens to pray, Bevin was elected to develop policies, not prayers. Local citizens, faith leaders and officials said they were looking for a more comprehensive crime-fighting proposal from the governor.
“If you are serious about fixing violence in West Louisville, then you must have the courage to address its root causes of injustice and racism,” said the Rev. Clay Calloway of the West Louisville Ministers Coalition. “He has a responsibility to produce public policy, regulation, and provide resources. We don’t need a sermon or him quoting scripture, we know the Bible and we’re already praying.”
Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, a local director of Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods, suggested that Bevin should be focusing on getting the city more resources to fight crime, not encouraging prayers.
Bevin wants to pray the crime away.
“Unfortunately, I think he’s already indicated that he’s not interested in bringing resources to the table,” Abdur-Rahman said. “He’s really having an oversimplified discussion about a cultural and spiritual deficit, which is really irresponsible at the end of the day.”
Micheshia Norment, whose 7-year-old son Dequante Hobbs was killed by a stray bullet in May, said she thought Bevin’s plan was a “good thought” but was skeptical that it would work. She said she doesn’t see his plan effecting change.
Following this backlash, Bevin now insists that those who criticized his prayer proposal did so because they “hate God and hate this administration” and clarified that he was speaking “specifically to people of faith” – apparently ignoring that some of the criticism came from faith leaders.
“I am convinced that over the course of a year, it is that infusion of respect and dignity and hope that will come into these communities — as a result of this, it will begin to transform them,” Bevin said on WHAS’ Leland Conway show, a local radio show.
But Bevin’s proposal still rings problematic. Instead of offering up prayers, he as governor should be offering up actions and resources to decrease crime. As West Louisville Rep. Attica Scott (D) said after his original comments: “West Louisville is not some godless place who needed this savior who lives in Anchorage to come in and say ‘we’re going to pray on it.’ That’s already been happening.”
The bottom line is elected officials should focus on doing their jobs in an inclusive, non-sectarian and practical manner.