Indiana trooper Brian Hamilton has been sued twice in the past 18 months for allegedly preaching to citizens after stopping them for traffic violations. Indiana State Police representatives said Thursday they had to sever Hamilton from the highway patrol force.
Hamilton, 40, was moved to a police desk job on Jan. 15 after a complaint was filed against him by a Fayette County woman, Wendy Pyle, reports Fox News. She said her constitutional rights were violated when Hamilton stopped her in January for speeding, and after giving her warning, asked her what church she attended and if she was saved.
Documents stemming from the lawsuit indicated Hamilton invited Pyle to his church and even gave her directions.
Now, Hamilton faces a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. This isn't the first time Hamilton faces a lawsuit after discussing religion with people he pulled over for traffic violations. He was sued in September 2014 in a similar case with driver Ellen Bogan, which was settled. Court papers indicate he was told then not to witness about his faith on traffic stops.
Bogan claimed Hamilton asked her several times about her religious beliefs. He also allegedly gave her a pamphlet from First Baptist Church in Cambridge City, which asks readers to acknowledge being a sinner, and advertised a radio broadcast titled "Policing for Jesus Ministries," reports Fox News.
In this year's complaint, documents allege Pyle answered "yes" to both questions because she was uncomfortable and wanted to end the stop.
"When he's engaged in the official acts of his job, especially when he's a police officer, those kinds of stops are inherently coercive. That is not the time to be talking to people about their religion," Richard Waples, an Indianapolis civil rights attorney, told Fox News.
Waples said there's a clear constitutional issue in this case with the first and fourth amendments. He believes the existence of a prior lawsuit could open up Hamilton to punitive damages.
"There's a time and a place for everything, and the officer has certainly overstepped his bounds on this one, if the facts in the complaint alleged are true," Waples said.
According to the complaint, Pyle filed a formal complaint after the stop with Hamilton, and was told she'd suffer no backlash. But someone who attends the trooper's church later came up to her and told her the trooper had her put on a prayer list.
"While all of us - citizen and police officer - enjoy the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech," Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said in a statement, "there are appropriate and proper restrictions placed on agents of the State related to their actions while engaged in their official duties."
Hamilton was a 14-year veteran of the Indiana police force, reports Fox 59.
Hamilton told Fox 59 he was "just following what the Lord told me to do 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. And that's why they fired me, so that's where we're at."