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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Police Department's Directive to Attend Event at Mosque Not Unconstitutional

A police captain sued the Tulsa police department claiming that the TPD violated the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses when it ordered him or someone else from his department to attend a community event at a mosque.  The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claims, finding that the order did not violate the First Amendment in Fields v. City of Tulsa, No. 12-5218 (10th Cir. May 22, 2014)

The TPD had been providing security to the Islamic Society of Tulsa after the FBI had reported threats against the Society.  that there was a threat against it. After the threats had passed, the Society invited the police department and local FBI officers to attend a "law enforcement appreciation day" to thank those involved. When no police officers in the Tulsa police department RSVP'd to attend, Captain Fields was ordered to either attend, or send a subordinate.  The captain refused to attend, claiming it was a violation of his civil rights to enter a mosque unless it was directly related to a plice call.  

The captain subsequently filed suit against the TPD.  First, the Tenth Circuit found no Free Exercise violation since the order did not, as the captain's briefs contended, force him "to enter a Mosque" because he could have sent someone else.  Second, the Tenth Circuit analyzed his Establishment Clause finding that "no reasonable person could view the purpose or effect of the TPD's attendance at the event as suggesting that Islam is a preferred religion." It concluded that the "Establishment Clause does not prohibit governmental efforts to promote tolerance, understanding, and neighborliness."

The captain also alleged that TPD violated his Freedom of Association by punishing him for objecting to the order. The court held that TPD had not interfered with any such right, because Field was not prohibited from engaging in any association. His claim that he was being forced to associate with the Society was equally disposed of.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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