An Indiana state police trooper has been fired for repeatedly proselytizing citizens during traffic stops.
According to KDSK 5, a local NBC affiliate, Senior Trooper Brian Hamilton was fired after a two-month internal investigation into his behavior.
“While all of us – citizen and police officer – enjoy the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, there are appropriate and proper restrictions placed on agents of the state related to their actions while engaged in their official duties,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter told the station. “While I respect Mr. Hamilton’s religious views I am also charged to respect every citizen’s rights and the best way forward for the citizens of Indiana, and for Mr. Hamilton, was to end his employment as a state police officer.”
Carter also had an extra impetus to relieve Hamilton of his duties: The trooper is facing his second lawsuit for evangelizing women he stopped for speeding.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit on behalf of Wendy Pyle, who claims the trooper asked her if she was “saved” during what should have been a routine traffic stop. The lawsuit also claims that Hamilton gave Pyle directions to his church and encouraged her to attend; he also handed her a pamphlet that advertised “Policing For Jesus Ministries.”
Hamilton’s “witnessing” didn’t stop there. From the court documents: “Ms. Pyle was approached by someone who attended church with Trooper Hamilton who informed her that Trooper Hamilton had placed her on a prayer list.”
Hamilton is nothing if not consistent. In 2014, the ACLU sued him over a similar incident. As previously reported on this blog, Hamilton handed Ellen Bogan a pamphlet that advertised his church and informed her that she is a “sinner” in desperate need of God’s Plan of Salvation. Bogan told the Indianapolis Star that she had no plans to attend Hamilton’s church but felt “compelled” to tell him she did. (It’s unclear if this is the same pamphlet he gave Pyle but the details are so similar that it seems likely this is the case.)
Hamilton eventually settled that lawsuit, and the terms of the settlement required him to undergo employee counseling. The Washington Post reports that he was also officially warned to stop questioning individuals about their religious beliefs while he carried out his duties.
Had he heeded this warning, Hamilton would have a job today. The wages of sin might be death, but violating the First Amendment has its own dire consequences. Hamilton was free to believe God had called him to become a police officer. He was even free to view his duties as a ministry – as long as he did not share that view with the individuals he was charged to police.
That restriction is not in place as an act of discrimination against Christians. It’s designed to protect individuals like Wendy Pyle and Ellen Bogan, who feel compelled to lie about their personal views under scrutiny from law enforcement.
On its website, the International Association of Police Chiefs posts a recommended Oath of Honor for new law enforcement officers; the final clause reads, “I will always uphold the Constitution, my community and the agency I serve.”
Hamilton turned his back on the Constitution, his community and his agency. Indiana State Police officials were correct to fire him.