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.”
The tract, which was from First Baptist Church of Cambridge City, also advertised for a Christian radio broadcast called “Policing for Jesus” with trooper Dan Jones.
The Indiana State Police told reporters that it cannot comment on pending litigation, but advised that the department does not have a policy surrounding the distribution of religious literature.
Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana told the Indianapolis Star that he doesn’t think Hamilton did anything that would warrant punishment.
“I have people pass out religious material all the time. Mormons come to my door all the time, and it doesn’t offend me,” he said. “[A traffic stop] 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.”
Bogan is seeking damages of an unspecified amount over Hamilton’s roadside evangelism.