Devon Clunis didn't announce new police recruits will be forced to have full-immersion baptisms in the cop-shop cafeteria. You'd think he had, given the hand-wringing following the revelation he told a Christian newsmagazine he believes in the power of collective prayer.
Until Tuesday morning, when the gotcha mentality took over, his religious beliefs weren't news. It was no secret Clunis is a Christian. He's been the police chaplain for 14 years.
But the incoming police chief's declaration he thinks prayers for peace in the city -- followed by concrete action -- can help us battle crime in Winnipeg has incited many.
Clunis didn't say Christian prayer or Muslim prayer or Buddhist prayer. He said he believes if all of us, regardless of our beliefs, took the time to pause, think about our hopes for the city and reflect on what sort of community we'd like to live in, we'd be taking a step in the right direction.
He didn't say you have to wear a crucifix or Magen David while you're praying.
Clunis isn't going to replace the rank and file with a cadre of Jehovah's Witnesses. While he might hope we can someday turn swords into plowshares, he won't strip his officers of their sidearms, either.
He's a cop. He knows he faces a tough job and he spoke honestly, if incautiously, to a Christian newspaper about his belief there is power in prayer. What's disturbing is the ease with which some detractors slipped into Christian-bashing, vitriol they likely wouldn't spout publicly at other minorities. Clunis knows a fair amount about prejudice. This time it's not about his colour, because even the most cretinous understand that's off-limits in a civilized society. Somehow, the memo about not promoting religious enmity didn't make the rounds.
The gotcha game continues. Clunis attends an evangelical church that's an offshoot of the church Stephen Harper attends. And from that we can conclude what? That Clunis is a Conservative? That he's heading for a paunch? That he'll dress poorly at international summits? Who cares?
Some eager beaver reporter will likely be packed off to church this Sunday to see if they handle snakes or speak in tongues at the Kilcona Park Alliance Church. You never know what those people are up to, don't you know?
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.
Clunis didn't say prayer alone is the answer to violent crime. He called for reflection, for a way for neighbours to look at each other and search out their commonalities, not their differences.
This city needs leaders who take a stand and stick to their beliefs. Devon Clunis is doing that. Pray or don't pray, but don't dismiss a man who believes "something phenomenal is going to happen in our city" and has the fortitude and faith to lead the charge.