Preaching on the Job? Indiana Cop Pulls Woman Over Then Asks If She is Saved
An Indiana woman claimed she was taken aback when she was stopped for a minor traffic violation and ended up getting a lecture about her eternal salvation.
Ellen Bogan, 60, said she does not attend church, but she eventually said she did just to get the cop to stop preaching at her.
“It’s completely out of line and it just — it took me back,” she told The Indianapolis Star about the incident, which happened in August.
She also said she did not feel like she could just drive away.
“The whole time, his lights were on,” Bogan stressed. “I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning.”
The state trooper, Brian Hamilton, also handed Bogan a pamphlet encouraging her to “acknowledge that she is a sinner.”
Now the ACLU and Bogan have filed a lawsuit saying traffic stop preaching goes too far, especially when the cop is representing the state.
A legal expert told the Indianapolis Star that if what Bogan said actually happened, her rights were indeed violated because Hamilton was speaking as a cop and using his authority to preach.
“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.” Jennifer Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis explained.
She added that while Hamilton has the right to his personal convictions, sharing them when on official duties violates the separation of church and state.
“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,” she added.
Conservative religious groups, though, have seized on the lawsuit as another example of Christians being persecuted and denied their right to free speech.
Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana insisted that just because Hamilton put on a badge, does not mean he has to stop talking about his faith with anyone he wants, including after giving someone a warning ticket.
“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.”
Drobac, though, countered that police officers are agents of the government, and therefore going around preaching is an abuse of authority.
“When you’re in your police blues, you do have the authority of the state,” she said. “That’s why police officers wear uniforms — to indicate their authority and their position.”
The Indiana State Police have refused comment on the matter pending litigation.
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