Indiana State Trooper Brian Hamilton was fired on Thursday after several complaints were made to the department that Hamilton was “preaching” to the drivers he pulled over, even asking one woman if she had “accepted Jesus Christ as her savior.”
According to the New York Times, Hamilton was a 14-year-veteran of the state’s police force prior to his termination earlier this week.
Hamilton was reportedly fired after the police department received a second complaint in just 18 months that he was “proselytizing” and “handing out a religious pamphlet during traffic stops.” The first incident came in 2014 when he asked about a driver’s religious affiliations. The second incident took place in January, and Brian was formally told not to push his religious beliefs onto the motorists.
— Gene Bryant (@GeneBryant2) April 8, 2016
The first time Hamilton offered tips on religion to a motorist was on August 9, 2014. At the time, the state trooper had pulled over Ellen Bogan for an illegal pass. When he approached the window, he questioned Bogan’s religious beliefs, reportedly asking her if she had a home church and if she had been saved. Before leaving her car, Hamilton handed her a pamphlet from the First Baptist Church in Cambridge City, which described “God’s Plan for Salvation.”
The driver that was pulled over in January filed a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday, which ultimately led to Hamilton’s release from the force. Wendy Pyle, a resident of Fayette County, said Brian had stopped her after she pulled into her driveway, and gave her a warning for speeding. She was also asked similar questions about her religion. The lawsuit said Pyle felt like Hamilton was being ” coercive,” and his questions were “extremely upsetting and unwanted.” Pyle added that she was later approached by a member of the First Baptist Church congregation, who told her she had been put on their prayer list.
“Indiana State Police trooper Brian Hamilton pulled over Wendy Pyle in January, according to a lawsuit filed… https://t.co/DJepGlkbPf
— Jeremy Gordon (@GordonDefense) April 9, 2016
“Ms. Pyle was extremely uncomfortable with these questions,” the lawsuit reads, according to the New York Daily News.“In order to hopefully end these inquiries Ms. Pyle indicated that she did attend a church and that she was saved.”
Douglas G. Carter, the state police superintendent, released a statement after the Indiana state trooper was fired.
“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. 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.”
Capt. David R. Bursten, a spokesman for the state police, said the police department has already received calls and emails from residents protesting Hamilton’s termination. According to Bursten, Indiana’s police force of 1,200 people included Jews, Muslims, Christians “and probably things we are not aware of.”
— Matt McCutcheon WTHR (@matt_mccutcheon) April 9, 2016
“I don’t think any of us wants to live in a society where any of those officers, on a whim, can turn on red or blue lights and pull you to the side of the road and then try to convert you to their religion.”
Indiana State Trooper Brian Hamilton has 15 days to appeal his firing and get his job back.
Do you agree with Hamilton being fired for pushing his religious beliefs? Leave your comments below.
[Photo via Indiana State Police]