An Indiana woman says a state trooper pulled her over and asked if she had accepted Jesus Christ as her savior, according to a federal lawsuit filed with the American Civil Liberties Union against Indiana State Trooper Brian Hamilton.
Ellen Bogan claims that Hamilton asked whether she had a home church and handed her a pamphlet advertising the “Policing For Jesus Ministries” radio program hosted by “Trooper Dan Jones.” According to the suit, the pamphlet asked her to “acknowledge she is a sinner.”
“It’s completely out of line and it just — it took me aback,” Bogan told the Indianapolis Star.
“The most important thing for people to understand is that the First Amendment specifies that the government shall not prefer one religion over another religion, or religious adherence over anything else,” said Jennifer Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. “The police officer is representing the government … so that means, as a representative, this person, while on duty, while engaged in official action, is basically overstepping and is trying to establish religion.”
Bogan says that Hamilton asked her about her faith numerous times during the stop, and that she felt trapped in the situation because he was parked behind her with the lights on the entire time; She said that she felt unable to leave or refuse questioning.
“The whole time, his lights were on,” Bogan said. “I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning.”
Bogan felt bullied into telling the officer that she was a devout church-goer because he was abusing his authority to prosthelytize his faith. “I’m not affiliated with any church. I don’t go to church,” Bogan said. “I felt compelled to say I did, just because I had a state trooper standing at the passenger-side window. It was just weird.”
Watch this video produced by the ACLU: ‘What to do when you’re stopped by police’
Traffic stops can be nerve-wracking, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Remember, you’ve got rights. The ACLU has put together an extremely helpful guide which explains your rights and responsibilities when dealing with police at a traffic stop.
– You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
– You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
– If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
– You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
– Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.
– Do stay calm and be polite.
– Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
– Do not lie or give false documents.
– Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
– Do remember the details of the encounter.
– Do file a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR
Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.
Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.
Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.