An Indiana State Police Trooper is being sued by a woman who alleges that the officer pulled her over for an alleged traffic violation and asked her whether she was saved by Jesus Christ.
"It's completely out of line and it just—it took be aback," Ellen Bogan, 60, told the Indianapolis Star. "The whole time, his lights were on. I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning."
The incident occurred in August this year, when Bogan was pulled over by Trooper Brian Hamilton. He gave her a warning ticket, then allegedly asked if she had accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savior and whether she had a church to go to. He also handed her a pamphlet about Jesus and salvation. Now, Bogan is suing, saying that her First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
"The most important thing for people to understand is that the First Amendment specifies that the government shall not prefer one religion over another religion, or religious adherence over anything else. The police officer is representing the government … so that means, as a representative, this person, while on duty, while engaged in official action, is basically overstepping and is trying to establish religion," Professor Jennifer Drobac, who has studied religion and government, told the Star.
Hamilton gave Bogan a pamphlet that outlines "God's plan for salvation," which includes the suggestion to "realize you're a sinner" and "realize the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins," USA Today reported.
The Indiana State Police have not responded to media requests for comment, and Hamilton is also remaining silent on the issue. However, a State Police spokesman did confirm that the police received notice of the lawsuit in late September and added that there is no specific policy that concerns officers who hand out religious materials.
"I have people pass out religious material all the time," Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana, told USA Today. "Mormons come to my door all the time, and it doesn't offend me. (This case) might not be the most persuasive time to talk to someone about their faith, but I don't think that a police officer is prohibited from doing something like that."
"I'm not affiliated with any church," Bogan added. "I felt compelled to say I did, just because I had a state trooper standing at the passenger-side window. It was just weird."