The Indiana State Police has fired a controversial trooper who had been sued twice in the past 18 months for allegedly preaching to citizens after traffic stops. Senior Trooper Brian Hamilton, 40, was a 14-year veteran of the agency.
While I have long supported cases defending religious freedom (including representing those claiming denial of such rights), I do not see why Hamilton has become such a rallying cry for some advocates. Drivers like Wendy Pyle complained about being questioned about her church and whether she was saved. There is no allegation of Hamilton did more than question on faith and invited drivers like Pyle to attend services at his church and gave her directions. However, citizens should be able to deal with an officer of the law without being questioned on her faith.
Pyle filed a formal complaint with the Indiana State Police. Her complaint joined an earlier complaint by driver Ellen Bogan. Bogan claimed that Hamilton asked her several times about her religious beliefs and gave her a pamphlet from First Baptist Church in Cambridge City and advertised a radio broadcast titled “Policing for Jesus Ministries.”
The police department correctly told Hamilton not to “question others regarding their religious beliefs nor provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements.” However, Hamilton insisted that he was following the command of the Lord “and you can’t change what the Lord tells you to do. So if the Lord tells me to speak about Jesus Christ, I do.”
Putting aside the meaning of such a commandment from the Lord (and whether he meant to proselytize to everyone at all times), Hamilton was using his official authority to impose religious questioning on citizens. It is doubtful that his supporters would have such a warm reception to a Muslim or Jewish or atheist officer pressing citizens about their faith. Clearly Hamilton feels a calling to be a preacher but he had to make a choice between being a preacher and a police officer. That choice was ultimately made for him.