INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana state police have fired a trooper after a second complaint was received about sharing his faith with those he encounters during traffic stops.
As previously reported, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against trooper Brian Hamilton in 2014 after complainant Ellen Bogdan alleged that he 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 2014 in Union County, Indiana. Hamilton gave Bogdan 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 then 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 lawsuit was later settled and Hamilton was ordered in writing, “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.”
But on Tuesday, the ACLU filed a second lawsuit against Hamilton, this time on behalf of complainant Wendy Pyle. The suit alleges that Hamilton pulled Pyle over for speeding this past January, but gave her a warning instead of a ticket. He then asked her if she went to church anywhere and if she was saved.
“It was unwanted. It was also extremely upsetting,” she told reporters.
Hamilton was fired on Thursday, but a spokesman for the Indiana State Police told reporters that it is because of an internal investigation and not because of the ACLU suit.
“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,” Chief Public Information Officer Captain David Bursten told local television Fox59. “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 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,” also said Superintendent Douglas Carter in a statement.
Hamilton told repoters, “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.”