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FIRST-PERSON: When saving a life, don't fret the ACLU

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--A retired Tulsa police officer persuaded a suicidal man against taking his own life in mid-August by talking about his Christian faith. He also prayed with the distraught man.

While many are praising the officer, I have to wonder what the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of the Church and State think about the situation.

Tyrone Lynn was called into the suicidal situation after other police negotiators had spent six days unsuccessfully trying to coax the man down from the top of a 100-foot radio tower in downtown Tulsa.

Lynn, a former negotiator and detective who retired in 2010 after 21 years with Tulsa's police force, patiently spent approximately eight hours with the distraught man.

A Christian, Lynn spoke to the man about faith and family. He also periodically prayed with man. "He felt like he had made a lot of mistakes," Lynn told the Tulsa World newspaper. "I started working on the mindset that ... he still has some control and it's not God that wanted him to fall."

The man, who had refused offers of food and water, was very weak when Lynn was lifted to the man via a cherry-picker bucket. According to the Tulsa World, Lynn indicated he believed the man did not want to jump from the tower, but rather wanted to become "so weak from lack of food and water that he would eventually fall."

At one point Lynn grabbed the man because "he was starting to pass out," the Oklahoma paper reported. "He was falling so I grabbed his arm.... e was actually having convulsions. I was hoping to keep my grip because he was so slick from sweating."


In the end, the man climbed into the bucket with Lynn. The pair prayed together one last time before being lowered to safety. The man was then taken to a nearby medical center. "I said the new chapter starts with this step into the bucket," Lynn told Tulsa World. "I prayed that God would give him the strength to start over."

Thus far I have heard no comment from the ACLU or Americans United on the situation. However, given the organizations' views of "separation of church and state," I speculate that a police officer using Christianity on the job to defuse a dangerous situation cannot please either liberal-leaning group.

While the ACLU and Americans United probably are satisfied with the outcome in Tulsa, it is likely they are at least somewhat rankled by the process.

Americans United filed a lawsuit in 2007 against InnerChange, a faith-based prison program in Iowa. Though the program was voluntary and seemed to be effective, AU sued to shut it down.

"Evidence that they reduce recidivism is inconclusive...," USA Today reported at the time. "However, evidence is strong that violence and trouble-making drop sharply in these programs, and they often are the only vibrant rehabilitation option at a time when taxpayer-funded alternatives have been cut back."


Alex Luchenitser, an Americans United attorney, told USA Today that his group's primary concern is equal treatment of all inmates, regardless of their faith or lack of one. "Legally, it's not relevant whether these programs are effective or not," he said.

Luchenitser said Americans United does not care whether a faith-based program is effective in rehabilitating criminals or making prisons less violent; it is only concerned that faith, in this case Christianity, is the vehicle that is producing the results.

While the ACLU takes a more moderate approach on faith-based prison programs, the organization is anything but thrilled with them.

USA Today reported that Elizabeth Alexander, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, "has qualms about whether the faith-based programs are fair to non-Christian inmates but hesitates to criticize them because they fill a void. Two decades of tough-on-crime policies have sharply reduced the number of rehabilitative prison programs, she said, and volunteer-driven religious initiatives offer states a low-cost way to meet some of the demand."

How does a faith-based prison program relate to an officer seeking to prevent a suicide? Both prison and police officers are agents of the government and in the view of some liberal groups they should be absolutely void of faith -- especially Christianity.


Thankfully, Tyrone Lynn was not concerned about such matters when he was lifted to the side of a suicidal man perched on top of a 100-foot radio tower.

The retired police officer was only concerned with saving a life. He believed his faith in Jesus Christ and prayer could help.

Turns out he was right.

Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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