Did Winnipeg’s police chief really say prayer will stop crime?

Matt Coutts

They say there are no atheists in fox holes, and perhaps the same should go for the streets of Winnipeg.

Winnipeg's incoming police chief Devon Clunis spun himself into the centre of a theological debate when, earlier this month, he suggested to a Christian newspaper that prayer would help fight crime.

Clunis clarified his comments to CBC on Wednesday, saying media reports misrepresented comments he made directly to a Christian community.

"I do believe that [prayer] will make a difference in our city — backing it up with action [with] all of us being better engaged in terms of creating a safer environment for all citizens of Winnipeg," Clunis told CBC.

"Maybe you go out and you volunteer; maybe you start an after-school program; maybe you go out and you clean up your community; join a citizens on patrol program.

"I really want people to focus on the entire message."

Entire messages can get lost in a world of headlines and tweets, and comments made to specific audiences have a way of making to the general public, often without their original filters.

Here is what Chief Devon Clunis originally told Christian Week:

"What would happen if we all just truly — I'm talking about all religious stripes here — started praying for the peace of this city and then actually started putting some action behind that?"

Here is what many people thought they heard:

"Winnipeg police officers don't need guns. They need bibles and only bibles because God will solve our problems, if we believe. Praise be."

Any number of Canadians of any number of faiths turn to prayer at the end of every day, sending blessings into the sky and seeking strength in return.

They pray in many forms for many things, from confused children seeking Christmas gifts to weeping husbands relying on personal faith as their wives battle cancer.

Who are we to stop them from sparing a moment for the streets of Winnipeg?

Lindor Reynolds of the Winnipeg Free Press, similarly took issue with the portrayal, saying Clunis spoke honestly, if not a little incautiously.

"Clunis is a public figure, and some argue that should preclude him from talking about religion. Nonsense. Whether you think God is an illusion or you believe in a higher power, he should not have to hide his faith. We all have the right to religious freedom and expression."

Winnipeg is considered Canada's murder capital, a distinction its police chief should not be satisfied with. If he wants to pray, and encourage other religious folks to pray with him, then the more power to him.

As long as he has a Plan B.