Cop is Terminated After Telling People About Jesus During Traffic Stops

David Wells | Courthouse News Service

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Indiana State Police fired a trooper Thursday on the heels of a second lawsuit alleging that the man was “proselytizing” citizens during traffic stops.

The federal complaint filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is the nonprofit’s second action in the last 18 months alleging that senior trooper Brian Hamilton preached and questioned citizen’s religion affiliations during the course of duty.

“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,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said in a statement. “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.”

The ACLU notes that Hamilton actually settled its first lawsuit against him, filed in 2014 on behalf of a woman who said Hamilton asked her if she had “accepted Jesus Christ as her savior.”

As part of the settlement, the new complaint states, Hamilton received employee counseling and was told to not engage in proselytizing behavior.

Yet Hamilton apparently had not learned his lesson when he pulled over Wendy Pyle for speeding this past January, the ACLU says.

After handing Pyle a ticket in her Fayette County driveway, Hamilton did not end the traffic stop, according to the complaint.

“Instead, Trooper Hamilton asked Ms. Pyle what church she attended and whether he was saved,” the complaint states.

“Ms. Pyle was extremely uncomfortable with these questions.

“In order to hopefully end these inquiries Ms. Pyle indicated that she did attend a church and that she was saved.

“However, Trooper Hamilton did not end the stop, but instead invited Ms. Pyle to his church and gave her directions to it.”

Pyle is represented by ACLU attorney Kenneth Falk.

Capt. David Bursten, a spokesman for the Indiana State Police, said the department had opened an internal investigation into Hamilton’s actions and fired him Thursday evening.

“The internal investigation was initiated, conducted, concluded and scheduled for the April 7 hearing over two weeks prior to the state police having any knowledge of the ICLU lawsuit,” Bursten said in a statement, using an alternate abbreviation for the ACLU of Indiana.

A representative for the ACLU has not returned a request for comment, and it remains unclear how Hamilton’s firing will affect the civil lawsuits.

Capt. Bursten stressed that Pyle’s lawsuit and the firing were “independent and separate issues,” and that the investigation would have proceeded “regardless of any legal action.”

Declining to comment any further on the litigation, Bursten noted that both ACLU lawsuits against Hamilton named him alone as a defendant, not his employer.

Published by Courthouse News Service.