Court Rules Against Tulsa Police Captain Demoted For Refusing To Attend Mosque Event
Tulsa Police Captain Paul Fields lost his lawsuit against the city Of Tulsa, Oklahoma and two of his superior officers, Tulsa Chief Charles Jordan, and Deputy Chief Alvin Webster. Fields filed his lawsuit after he was demoted and given an unpaid two week suspension for refusing to attend an event at a local Mosque or assign other officers to attend in his place.
Captain Fields objected to the event because he believed it violated his religious beliefs and he felt ordering another officer to attend would also violate deeply held personal religious principals. The local mosque admitted they deliberately scheduled the event on a Friday so the officers would be present during prayer sessions.
Tulsa Police officials added to the confusion by first calling the event voluntary than making it mandatory when Fields refused to attend. The day after the Captain was demoted and suspended the event was returned to voluntary for all the members of Captain Field’s shift.
Fields’s lawyers are particularly concerned about the fact that Captain Field’s is prohibited by the Tulsa Police Department from discussing his religious beliefs while he is working as a police officer but the department feels it has the right to insist that Field’s follow a mandatory order to attend a religious service that promotes the beliefs of another religion while on duty.
Federal Judge Frizzell dismissed the lawsuit against the Tulsa Police Department, the Chief and the Deputy Chief without ruling on the First Amendment issues that were the heart of Captain Filed’s lawsuit. Lawyers for the Captain have promised to appeal the case to the Federal 10th Circuit Court.
In a legal brief filed on the Captain’s behalf, Major Julie Harris, Fields’ immediate supervisor, “candidly admitted during her sworn testimony that the police department retaliated against [Fields] for exercising his constitutional rights.”
Major Harris stated she spoke to the Tulsa Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division about the case, saying:
“If somebody had some deep, deep, deep religious conviction, and as long as there was no crime that they needed to investigate, there’s no need for me to force this (Islamic mosque attendance) on anybody.”
The City of Tulsa said it won’t tolerate officers ignoring orders and claimed officers have attended hundreds of such events at religious locations in the past with no problem.
“Paul Fields was given a viable, legal order and failed to follow that order. There’s issues between Captain Fields and Deputy Chief Webster, and a large part of it was Paul Fields saying, ‘I’m not going to do what you tell me to do’”
Field’s legal team contends the Islamic Society of Tulsa’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day was an attempt to promote Islam and had nothing to do with showing appreciation for local police. They were also concerned that the Mosque hosted speakers who openly promote imposing Sharia Law in America, including rabidly anti-American convert to Islam Siraj Wahhaj:
“The so-called ‘appreciation day’ included ‘Mosque tours,’ which involved religious proselytizing, meeting ‘Local Muslims & Leadership,’ watching the ‘weekly congregational prayer service,’ and receiving presentations on Islamic ‘beliefs.’”
Robert Muise, of the American Freedom Law Center, defended Captain Fields and strongly supports his planned appeal:
“They want to vilify Captain Fields, but the people who know him the best—Chief Jordan, who testified in deposition that he absolutely understood Captain Fields has deep religious beliefs and was acting pursuant to those beliefs.”
Scott Wood, Captain Field’s attorney, called the entire incident a case of political correctness gone too far.
“When you become a police officer you don’t give up any of your constitutional rights.”