Clunis discusses faith with non-believers

Atheists worried about Christian influence on police force


Advertise with us

Winnipeg's Christian police chief opened up to a meeting of non-believers this weekend about the role of faith in the police service and its leadership.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/11/2014 (3121 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg’s Christian police chief opened up to a meeting of non-believers this weekend about the role of faith in the police service and its leadership.

Chief Devon Clunis told the Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba he would review the long-standing practice of offering Bibles to new police recruits and the use of leadership-course materials prepared by an evangelical Christian in the U.S.

In a question-and-answer session, Clunis acknowledged Bibles provided to the police service are offered to recruits, but no other faith’s holy books are, as far as he knows. One member of the Humanists asked how a new recruit might feel if they were the only one in their class not to accept a Bible.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Police Chief Devon Clunis said the policy of giving Bibles to police recruits will be reviewed.

“That’s a good point,” said Clunis, acknowledging the religious and ethnic diversity of the police service that provides diversity training to its officers.

Clunis said he was open to talking about his faith and how it does or does not inform his role as police chief.

“I’m OK with being the prayer guy,” Clunis told the group. He was referring to a 2012 article about him in ChristianWeek magazine that ran shortly after he became chief. In it, he talked about his belief in the power of prayer backed up by action to prevent crime.

“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?”

That comment made headlines in the mainstream media about the leader of the secular police service talking publicly about his religious beliefs, including the power of prayer.

On Saturday night, an organization that doesn’t believe in God or religion invited Clunis to talk about the Winnipeg Police Service offering Bibles to recruits and a more recent development — the use of leadership course materials prepared by an American evangelical Christian: John C. Maxwell’s textbook Developing the Leaders Around You.

One page says “Despite not having a ‘say’ in who our Service hires, we do have a tremendous (impact) on who we choose to invest into as future leaders.” It said an “assessment of Future Leaders should include an evaluation of these qualities” listing things such as “self-discipline”, “a good track record,” “the ability to solve problems,” “the person is free from anger” and “is willing to make changes.” The quality the Manitoba Humanists found unsettling was No. 16 on the list — “The person is growing closer to God.”

A disclaimer at the end of the section regarding point 16 says “Please consider the fact that the author has a Christian background and in his personal view a relationship with God translates into a belief that any person truly growing closer to God must first follow Bible-based values (which would include the majority of the other points on the list). This does not mean to say that individuals who are “Not” growing closer to God are void of the necessary ingredients to serve as leaders within the WPS.”

Clunis said the program was brought to him by a staff member at a time when the service had no real development program for middle managers. He said the course was adopted because Maxwell has a reputation as a “phenomenal leadership guru… not simply because he’s Christian.”

Bob Russell, a retired police officer and a member of the Humanists, said the use of Maxwell’s material is worrisome if the police service is to maintain its separation of church and state.

‘In my decisions, religion plays no role. I make my decisions based on the law of the land’

— Devon Clunis

“What concerns me is (Maxwell’s) stated purpose to increase the number of Christian leaders in the world,” said Russell, who retired in 2012 after working under eight chiefs of police. Earlier in the night, he introduced Clunis to the group as a “good, sincere, intelligent, gentle man dedicated to his profession and city.”

Russell told Clunis he worried that, with the course material being used, qualified leadership candidates might be overlooked if they were not Christian and seen to be “growing closer to God.”

Clunis was adamant a person’s religious belief has nothing to do with their career advancement or the running of the police service where secular laws and rules trump religious ones.

“In my decisions, religion plays no role,” he said. “I make my decisions based on the law of the land,” Clunis said. “Our promotion process precludes tampering with the process.” He said he has promoted five people to the position of superintendent since becoming chief and has no knowledge of their faith. “I can’t tell you what their religious beliefs are,” he said.

“No one is promoted or demoted because of a belief system,” said Clunis. “I’m not trying to proselytize or convert anyone.”

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us