KIRKLAND, N.M. (BP)–A New Mexico sheriff was so moved by a video shown at his church that he purchased copies for churches in his county, urging them to pray for revival.
Sheriff Mike Davidson’s action has drawn applause from area pastors, but it has also raised concern from those who feel it may violate the separation of church and state.
The video at the heart of the debate is “Transformations,” copyright by The Sentinel Group and produced by Global Net Productions. The production focuses on four communities around the world where Christians united in prayer and, as a result, revival broke out and the crime rate dramatically dropped.
Davidson first saw the video at the church where he is a member, First Baptist Church, Kirtland, in February. The church had borrowed the video from San Juan Baptist Association, based in nearby Farmington.
Convinced that prayer could make a dramatic difference in his county, Davidson used discretionary sheriff department funds to purchase 90 videos and, on March 13, sent them with a letter on department stationary to Christian pastors in the area, urging them to lead their churches to pray, Myra Gates, office manager for the Baptist association, told the Baptist New Mexican newsjournal March 23.
Many of the pastors read the letter to their congregations and showed the 58-minute video, Gates said.
When word of the sheriff’s action reached the media, though, things turned ugly, Gates said.
According to a March 23 Associated Press report, concern was raised about the appropriateness of using county funds for the $1,600 project and the county’s main law enforcement official promoting one religion.
Approximately 150 people gathered at the sheriff’s office March 23 for a rally in support of Davidson, Gates said.
At least half a dozen of the approximately 25 pastors present were Southern Baptist.
During the rally the pastors said they will lead their churches to take up an offering to pay back the sheriff’s discretionary fund. The pastors emphasized their actions should not be construed as an admission that Davidson’s use of the funds was wrong.
The offering also would be used to purchase a full-page ad in Farmington’s Daily Times newspaper, supporting the sheriff and announcing a public showing of the video at the civic center in Farmington March 27, Gates said.
Shortly after the rally, Davidson announced that he had written a personal check to the county to reimburse the fund.
Gates urged Baptists, “Pray for Mike and his family.” Davidson is currently serving his second term as sheriff, the maximum allowed.