From The Freethinker
Ever since the story broke earlier this month of an Indiana state trooper giving a driver a dose of Jesus along with a warning ticket, thousands of discussions have erupted over whether police officers have the right to proselytize whilst in uniform.
Well, today on Reddit I stumbled across a post by that ought to silence those in favour of evangelising plods.
“Dogs not Gods” wrote that after he he posted an article about State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton, his Christian uncle – a cop – responded thus:
I have spoken to people about my faith on duty numerous times and wouldn’t hesitate to do it in the future … thousands of police officers are Christians and have spoken openly of their faith on duty. We too have rights. Just because we wear a uniform does not mean that we give up those rights.
“Dogs not Gods” said a few friends responded, but this was the best:
[… ] The fact that you are all comfortable doing it has no bearing on the legality of the action.
Thousands of Christian pastors endorse political candidates from the pulpit. That’s illegal. Thousands of football coaches lead Christian prayers on the field. That’s illegal. Thousands of government buildings feature monuments to the Ten Commandments, or nativity scenes around Christmas. That’s illegal. There are laws designating a ‘day of prayer’ or designating the Bible as a state book. There are laws preventing atheists from holding office.
All of these things are illegal, but they happen anyway because the Christian majority thinks they have special privileges and protections that are not shared by the rest of us. I could provide you with hundreds more examples, but the law is the same no matter what.
As to your rights, I have clearly explained that those rights are not universal. Target employees have every right to carry a concealed handgun in their daily lives, but not at work.
Military employees have every right to wear their hair however they want, but not at work. Colorado citizens have every right to smoke marijuana recreationally, but not at work. And I’m willing to bet that if you showed up tomorrow with a goatee, ponytail, and swastikas tattooed on both cheekbones – all things that you as an American are well within your rights to have as personal accessories – there would be repercussions.
Similarly, you have every right to be a Christian and to believe whatever you want. You can talk about your faith to your friends and family, you can accost people on the street and explain to them how wonderful Jesus is, you can even stand on a street corner with a sign that says that heathens like me are going to hell. BUT NOT AT WORK.
While at work, you are not the autonomous individual you are outside it. You are an agent of the law, and as such are bound to uphold it. You even took an oath when you joined the [omitted] County Sheriff’s office saying that you ‘will enforce and administer the law according to the standards of the US Constitution and applicable State Constitutions and statutes so that equal protection of the law is guaranteed to everyone. To that end, I shall not permit personal opinions, party affiliations, or consideration of the status of others to alter or lessen this standard of treatment of others’.
That means you cannot proselytize at work. This is not my opinion, it’s a fact, and the only reason you think it’s an infringement on your rights is that you’ve been in the privileged majority for so long that equality feels strange.
Here’s a little test: Imagine you’re in plainclothes and you get pulled over by an officer you’ve never met before. As far as he knows, you’re not an officer at all, just another civilian. In the middle of your traffic stop, he asks you if you’re a member of the Church of Satan or would like to become one. He explains that the sins of the Bible are just oppressive means of control, and that the Church of Satan believes in indulgence rather than abstinence, and undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit (by which, of course, he means your personal beliefs).
I’m willing to bet you’d be offended. You might even feel threatened. After all, this man is in uniform, carrying a gun, leaning over your open car window and telling you to believe what he believes. If you tell him to go away, he might write you a stiffer penalty, or even arrest you ‘on suspicion’ of something.
THAT is why you are required to remain neutral on religion, politics, race, etc. THAT is why you said as much in your Code of Ethics. And THAT is why, no matter how comfortable you are talking about Jesus – and I have no doubt that you feel totally comfortable doing so as a Christian working for a Christian government in the middle of a predominantly Christian state and nation – it is grossly inappropriate for you to do so.
Cop uncle’s response predictably sidesteps all of the points made by author:
Listen guys I’m not sure what God ever did to you but the fact is He is real. You will stand before Him someday to give an account for everything that you have said and done. All of your anger towards Him and towards Christians isn’t going to amount to anything. I wish nothing but the best to you all and I hope that at some point you will wake up. Hopefully, not at the judgement seat of Christ because then it will be too late.
• The photo used to illustrate this post is of Sheriff Brad Rogers, who was in group of about 30 people who gathered on the lawn in front of the Elkhart County Courthouse in Indiana to worship on the National Day of Prayer on May 1 this year. Asked what he was praying for, Rogers replied:
I’m praying about the government and that the Lord would protect us whether we’re police officers, firefighters, state or local employees. We pray for wisdom and guidance in the decisions we make as we serve we the people.