There’s a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma – an officer officer, a captain – who thinks he has a “duty to proselytize” – even in uniform, even on duty – anyone who doesn’t have the same religious beliefs as his. Huh. I would think he has a duty not to, because separation of church and state. If there’s any branch of government you don’t want proselytizing you, it’s the police or the military.
Fortunately, a federal appellate court saw it the same way. The ACLU explains:
In 2011, the Islamic Society of Tulsa organized a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day to show its gratitude for protection provided after threats to its mosque. As part of its longstanding community-policing initiative, the Tulsa Police Department requested some of its officers to attend, as they had for hundreds of other outreach events hosted by various religious organizations over the years.
One officer – Captain Paul Fields – refused, however, claiming his attendance would pose a “moral dilemma.” Even when in uniform, Fields argued, he had a “duty to proselytize” anyone who doesn’t share his Christian beliefs. Despite his supervisors’ assurances that no one at the event would be required to participate in any religious observations or express or adopt any beliefs, and despite their offers that he send a subordinate in his place, Fields wouldn’t follow orders.
In a unanimous decision yesterday, a federal appellate court rightly found Captain Fields’s claims to have no merit, agreeing with the Tulsa Police Department and theACLU. Though certainly entitled to his own deeply held beliefs, as a police officer, Captain Fields is bound to serve all members of the community, regardless of their faith.
Including, I might add, no faith at all.