Christian Police Chief Rightfully Punished for Not Attending Mosque Ceremony, Court Says

A federal appeals court ruled this week that a Christian police captain from Tulsa, Okla., was rightfully punished for refusing to enter a mosque for a police appreciation ceremony.

Police Captain Paul Fields previously sued the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department after he was punished for refusing to attend a police appreciation event at the Islamic Society of Tulsa in March 2011.

Capt. Fields claimed in his lawsuit, Fields v. City of Tulsa, that his religious freedom rights had been violated when he was docked pay and transferred after refusing to attend the "Law Enforcement Appreciation Day" at the Islamic Society of Tulsa in 2011. Fields had refused to attend the appreciation ceremony, writing in an email to his superiors that he found the ceremony to be in "direct conflict with my personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience shocking."

Fields' superiors told the police captain that he could opt out of attending the ceremony if he sent subordinates in his place, but he refused to do so. Following an investigation, the Tulsa Police Department found that Fields "had committed an act of insubordination unprecedented in TPD history." The captain was ultimately punished by being docked 10 days' pay, being transferred and allegedly being forced to work obscure night hours.

The American Freedom Law Center, the legal firm representing Fields, described its client as a Christian who objected to the City of Tulsa and its police department for "promoting, endorsing, or otherwise providing favored treatment to Islam and compelling officers of the police department to attend Islamic events […]."

This Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Tulsa Police Department was correct in punishing Fields for not attending the appreciation event. The opinion from the appeals court stated that Fields should have had a subordinate go in his place if he wished to not attend the ceremony. The opinion also noted that such police-related ceremonies are often held in "community buildings" such as the Islamic Society of Tulsa.

"No informed, reasonable observer would have perceived the order or the event as a government endorsement of Islam," the court's opinion read, in part.

Robert Joseph Muise of the American Freedom Law Center told the Associated Press that he and his client are displeased with the court's decision and will request a new hearing.

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