I’m accustomed to hearing stories of cops Stopping and Frisking African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. I’m accustomed to stories of cops brutalizing citizens of the US, especially People of Color. I’m not use to hearing stories of police officers proselytizing during the course of a traffic stop. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened to Ellen Bogan:
Bogan said Hamilton asked her about her faith multiple times during the traffic stop. She felt because he was a trooper and his police car was still parked behind hers, she could not 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.”
According to the complaint, Hamilton asked if he could give Bogan something and he went to his car to retrieve a pamphlet from First Baptist Church in Cambridge City.
The pamphlet advertises a radio broadcast from “Trooper Dan Jones” called “Policing for Jesus Ministries.” It also outlines “God’s plan for salvation,” a four-point list that advises the reader to “realize you’re a sinner” and “realize the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins.”
“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,” she said.
When Bogan contacted the Indiana State Police afterward and requested a formal investigation, she was told later that the agency was “taking supervisory action.”
The Indy Star reports that Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said that even though the traffic stop might not have been the best time to question someone about faith, he wondered whether a police officer should lose his right to free speech because he is wearing a badge.
I would have been just as cautious. You’ve no way of knowing-until the cop says so-that you’re free to go. The officer had a captive audience with which to preach his religious views to in the course of carrying out his duties as a representative of the US government. That’s blatantly unconstitutional. I’d be pissed the fuck off if a police officer asked me about my religious beliefs while writing me a warning or a ticket. It’s none of their damn business what my belief system is (or isn’t). Sadly, as an atheist, and a black person, I’d be scared to reply honestly. I’d probably lie bc you don’t know who the good cops are any longer.