By Victor Ochieng
An Indiana trooper has lost his job following complaints that he shares the Word of God with those he meets during traffic stops.
In 2014, American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the trooper, Brian Hamilton, following a complaint by one, Ellen Bogan, who alleged that her constitutional rights were infringed when the officer asked her about her religious beliefs after being pulled over for a traffic offense.
The Union County, Indiana, incident occurred in August of 2014. First, Hamilton focused on his job by giving Bogan a warning for breaking a traffic rule. He then went ahead to ask her about where she went to church. Bogan also claims that Hamilton asked her if she’d accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
“I’m not affiliated with any church. I don’t go to church,” Bogan told the Indianapolis Star. “I felt compelled to say I did, just because I had a state trooper standing at the passenger-side window. It was just weird.”
The officer then asked if he could give her a tract and proceeded to the vehicle to get it.
“The whole time, his lights were on,” she said. “I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning.”
Unhappy with the experience, Bogan proceeded to lodge a complaint with the Indiana State Police and made a request that the incident be investigated. She then reached out to ACLU to file a lawsuit in which she alleged that Hamilton had violated her First and Fourth Amendment by preaching to her at a traffic stop and giving her a tract that asked her to acknowledge she’s a sinner and “realize the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins.”
The whole issue was settled and a warning sounded at Hamilton, saying, “During the course of his official duties, S/Trp. Hamilton will not question others regarding their religious beliefs nor provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements.”
However, it appears Hamilton wasn’t done with his preaching. On Tuesday, another complaint was filed by ACLU, claiming that a complainant, Wendy Pyle, had been stopped by Hamilton at a stop for speeding in January. It’s reported that after Hamilton served her with a warning, he proceeded to ask her where she went to church and if she was born again.
“It was unwanted. It was also extremely upsetting,” she told reporters.
On Thursday, Hamilton was fired from his position. While many may have thought Indiana State Police fired the trooper over ACLU’s new lawsuit, the police department dismissed the notion saying it was due to internal investigations.
“The internal investigation was initiated, conducted, concluded and scheduled for the April 7th hearing over two weeks prior to the state police having any knowledge of the ACLU lawsuit,” said Chief Public Information Officer Captain David Bursten. “Today’s termination of Hamilton’s employment with the state police was the result of a thorough internal investigation and would have occurred regardless of any legal action initiated by the ACLU against Mr. Hamilton.”
While some people feel sorry for Hamilton, he looks at it differently. Speaking to reporters, he said, “I’m just following what the Lord told me to do, and you can’t change what the Lord tells you to do. So if the Lord tells me to speak about Jesus Christ, I do. And that’s why they fired me so that’s where we’re at.”