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Cop grills driver over her religious beliefs

Cop grills driver over her religious beliefs

Indiana resident Ellen Bogan, 60, ‘fessed up to being a True Believer … but just to get get away from a proselytising state trooper.

According to this report, Bogan, who was pulled up for an alleged traffic violation, was given the third degree about her religious beliefs by Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton. She said:

I’m not affiliated with any church. I don’t go to church. I felt compelled to say I did, just because I had a state trooper standing at the passenger-side window. It was just weird.

Bogan and the American Civil Liberties Union have now filed a lawsuit in federal court against Hamilton. It alleges he violated Bogan’s First and Fourth Amendment rights when he probed into her religious background and handed her a church pamphlet that asks the reader:

To acknowledge that she is a sinner.

When she was stopped, the trooper handed Bogan a warning ticket. Then, Bogan said, Hamilton – with the lights on his marked police car still flashing – posed some personal questions.

• Did she have a home church?
• Did she accept Jesus Christ as her savior?

Bogan’s lawsuit also claims that Hamilton asked if he could give her something and that he went to his car to retrieve a pamphlet from First Baptist Church in Cambridge City.

The pamphlet,  included in the lawsuit, advertises a radio broadcast from “Trooper Dan Jones” called “Policing for Jesus Ministries”. It also outlines “God’s plan for salvation,” a four-point list that advises the reader to “realize you’re a sinner” and “realize the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins.”

State Police spokesman David Bursten confirmed that State Police received notice about the lawsuit in late September but said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Bursten said there is no specific policy in State Police code that addresses officers who distribute religious materials.

Calls to a home number listed for Hamilton were not returned.

The lawsuit raises questions about when it’s appropriate for a police officer to speak about his faith. If the allegations in this case are true, legal experts said, a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause appears to be clear.

Said Jennifer Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis who has studied religion and government.

The most important thing for people to understand is that the First Amendment specifies that the government shall not prefer one religion over another religion, or religious adherence over anything else.

The police officer is representing the government … so that means, as a representative, this person, while on duty, while engaged in official action, is basically overstepping and is trying to establish religion.

Bogan said she contacted the Indiana State Police afterward and requested a formal investigation, and was told later that the agency was “taking supervisory action”. She said she was not told what that action was, however.

Micah Clark, Executive Director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said that although the traffic stop might not have been the best time to quiz someone about faith, he questioned whether a police officer should lose his right to free speech because he was wearing a badge.

I have people pass out religious material all the time. Mormons come to my door all the time, and it doesn’t offend me. [This case] might not be the most persuasive time to talk to someone about their faith, but I don’t think that a police officer is prohibited from doing something like that.

17 responses to “Cop grills driver over her religious beliefs”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    At least some Americans have been treated decently by the law today:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-29508566

  2. Toto says:

    That this could happen in the good ole us of a is bad enough, but had this episode taken place in say Iraq at the hands of the lawless murdering islamofacist barbarian death cult lunatics then she would have been abducted, sold off, gang raped and decapitated.

  3. Newspaniard says:

    @Toto. “…she would have been abducted, sold off, gang raped and decapitated.”
    Not necessarily in that order. :0)

  4. Broga says:

    ” he questioned whether a police officer should lose his right to free speech because he was wearing a badge.”

    I suppose that would mean that next time I see my GP he could give me his religious views and foist Jesus on me.

  5. Norman Paterson says:

    “[…] he questioned whether a police officer should lose his right to free speech because he was wearing a badge.”

    No, it’s while he’s wearing a badge that he loses that right.

    Jesus! It should be obvious.

  6. Trevor Blake says:

    I’m sure there aren’t always laws against passing out atheist literature in a mosque or synagogue or church. But common decency prevents thousands upon thousands of atheists from doing so every week. Common decency – the faithful are beyond that, judging by their behavior.

  7. jay says:

    In a case like this it’s MUCH more than just decency, and it’s FAR beyond simple separation of church and state.
    This is flat out intimidation. He stopped the woman,with the suggestion that she might get a warning, used the power of his office to coerce her to take the literature. Even if it weren’t religious, even if it were ads for a police fundraiser… it’s coercion plain and simple.

  8. Ex Patriot says:

    The officer was totally overstepping the authority of his badge and should be called on the carpet for doing this. I hope she wins the suit and this nonsense comes to a halt.

  9. Laura Roberts says:

    Jay and Ex Patriot have it exactly right. A police officer who exhibits that much contempt for his office and the constitution deserves a demotion at the very least, if not outright termination. Especially with the modern militarized, uneducated and hyper-paranoid American police force, it is not unreasonable to think she could have been tazed or shot if she didn’t go along. You don’t have to look far to find news stories about civilians being abused for less.

  10. Rob Andrews says:

    “She was issued a warning ticket”…So i guess she was pulled over for something other than to propagate religion. i might have responded with:
    ‘Am I to be charged with heracy or apostacy or something’. The humar to try to make him relax.

    But being a white man I can say things like that to cops without to much fear. I didn’t say if she was black or other minority. But I wouldn’t be so brave if i were black in America, when talking to police.

    NO god;no bible; no sin; no hell; no problems

    “God created man at the end of the week, when he was tired”–Mark Twain

  11. Bob says:

    He is being fucking persecuted for evangelising the lost.

  12. Ragtop says:

    The article didn’t mention she was lost. To use a position of authority to try and faust your superstition (wheteher it be christainity, islam, mormon, voodoo, etc.) is an abuse of said autority. No one should feel coerced to having there personal beleifs questioned and challenged.
    Cheers!

  13. Wayne says:

    No he is being “persecuted” for over-stepping the boundaries between church & state…Once this guys gets up in the morning and puts on a badge, then HELL YES—-he loses his right to “evangelize” the people he stops on the highway. In fact he should not be persecuted, but he SHOULD BE PROSECUTED for violating peoples rights like that…If he wants to preach—then take off the badge and go to sunday school and do so…

  14. A Confused Atheist says:

    Funny how she assumes that this little chat between the policeman and herself is ‘persecution’. If I was the driver, both I and the trooper would have been standing there until around 23:00 chatting about the benefits of religion.

  15. Ragtop says:

    The lawsuit doesn’t claim persecution, it claims a violation of her first and fourth amendment rights. When an officer is on duty he represents the government and therefore he’s creating the impression that government is supporting a particular religion. He is free to support any religion and hand out all the pamphlets he wants when he’s not on duty and wearing his uniform. Incidently, I don’t think police officers should be spending too much time discussing religion or any other non-job related issues with anyone while on duty, no matter how willing the participant-it’s not part of the job they are being paid to do.

    Cheers!

  16. […] since the story broke earlier this month of an Indiana state trooper giving a driver a dose of Jesus along…, thousands of discussions have erupted over whether police officers have the right to proselytize […]

  17. […] since the story broke earlier this month of an Indiana state trooper giving a driver a dose of Jesus along…, thousands of discussions have erupted over whether police officers have the right to proselytize […]