Indiana State Trooper Brian Hamilton is “Policing for Jesus.”
Union County, IN — In August 2014, Hamilton pulled over Ellen Bogan, 60, for allegedly making an illegal pass; a claim Bogan says is false.
Bogan was given a warning citation by trooper Hamilton and before he let her drive away he got a bit too personal.
Bogan, with the assistance of the ACLU has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Hamilton for proselytizing during a traffic stop.
According to the lawsuit, Hamilton began asking Bogan about her faith:
Did she have a home church?
Did she accept Jesus Christ as her savior?
Bogan answered yes to these questions because she wanted to terminate the conversation as soon as possible and she felt that she could could not say ‘no’ because of the situation.
Hamilton then handed Bogan a pamphlet for his church which asks the reader to “Acknowledge that she is a sinner.” The pamphlet, which was also included in the lawsuit, advertises a radio broadcast from “Trooper Dan Jones” called “Policing for Jesus Ministries.”
The lawsuit alleges that Hamilton violated Bogan’s 1st and 4th Amendment rights when he questioned her about her religious background.
Of course the officer does have his freedom of speech, but using his position of authority to proselytize during a traffic stop over steps his bounds.
“I’m not affiliated with any church. I don’t go to church,” Bogan said. “I felt compelled to say I did, just because I had a state trooper standing at the passenger-side window. It was just weird.”
With the red and blue lights flashing and without being told she could go, this line of questioning made Bogan feel incredibly uncomfortable. The lawsuit states:
Given that the Trooper remained at her window talking to her with his police care behind her car with its lights flashing, Ms. Bogan did not believe that she could leave and a reasonable person would not have believed that they could leave.
Given all the circumstances, the proselytizing by Trooper Hamilton of Ms. Bogan was coercive.
According to the IndyStar, 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, told the IndyStar 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 is 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,” Clark said. “(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.”
One does not “lose their right to free speech” when they are blocked from proselytizing on the clock for their government job. Of course Mormons on bicycles do not “offend” Clark, as they are not armed with a pistol, baton, and taser and in a position to legally use deadly force against him.
Would Clark have been okay with the officer asking Bogan if she pledged her soul and accepted his great darkenss, Beelzebub, as her almighty ruler and supreme overlord? Probably not.
Here at the Free Thought Project we believe that the free expression and discussion of any and all ideas is the only way to actually achieve progress. However, it is no longer free expression when the authoritative nature of the state becomes involved. Bogan legitimately feared giving unfavorable responses to trooper Hamilton; there is nothing “free” about it.
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