UNION COUNTY, Indiana – A police officer in Indiana has been leveled with a lawsuit for sharing the gospel with a driver during a traffic stop.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing complainant Ellen Bogan, 60, who claims that Indiana State Police trooper Brian Hamilton violated her constitutional rights by asking her about her religious beliefs after he pulled her over for an alleged traffic violation.
According to reports, the incident occurred in August in Union County, Indiana. Hamilton gave her a warning about making an illegal pass—and then asked her if she went to church anywhere. He also reportedly asked her if she had accepted Jesus 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 trooper then asked Bogan if he could give her a tract, and he went to his vehicle to retrieve it for her.
“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.”
Bogan later contacted the Indiana State Police to lodge a complaint and request an investigation. She also enlisted the assistance of the ACLU to file a lawsuit claiming that Hamilton violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights by speaking to her about matters of faith and handing her a tract that asks the recipient to “realize you’re a sinner” and “realize the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins.”
It’s one thing for ordinary Christians to have the freedom to be able to share the Gospel with colleagues in day-to-day conversation.
It’s another for police to take advantage of their ability to stop people from their regular movements, and accost them with proselytization while they have a captive audience.
A balance needs to be struck in society, in terms of finding the right place within the public square for sharing the faith.
There is a time and place for everything, as Scripture acknowledges.
Agents of a state committed to religious neutrality in a country with freedom of religion should not be taking advantage of their powers to proselytize ordinary citizens who aren’t their colleagues, while on the job, especially under such circumstances as this.
I wouldn’t want a cop to pull me over, and proselytize Islam, or Judaism, or atheism; I can therefore sympathize with this atheist woman.
The corollary of the Golden Rule is that you don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t have them do unto you.
Therefore this cop was wrong, and should accordingly be punished.