Ellen Bogan was rolling down U.S. 27 in Union County, Indiana when she was pulled over for a traffic violation. The state trooper let her off with a warning, but not before asking some bizarrely unprofessional questions:
Did she have a home church?Did she accept Jesus Christ as her savior?
Ellen said she felt helpless to leave the traffic stop, even after the warning had been issued:
“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.”Bogan, who lives in Huntington, said Hamilton asked her about her faith multiple times during the traffic stop. Because he was a trooper and his police car was still parked behind hers, she said she felt she could not leave or refuse questioning.
“The whole time, his lights were on,” Bogan said. “I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning.”
The ACLU has joined Ellen Bogan to file a lawsuit against Trooper Hamilton. Key quotes from the complaint:
1. After conducting a traffic stop at which Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton presented Ms. Bogan with a warning ticket, Trooper Hamilton prolonged the stop by asking Ms. Bogan, among other things, if she had accepted Jesus Christ as her savior and then presented her with a pamphlet from the First Baptist Church in Cambridge that informed the reader that he or she is a sinner; listed God’s Plan of Salvation, noting that the person must realize that “the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins; and, advertised a radio broadcast entitled “Policing for Jesus Ministries.” The actions of defendant Trooper Hamilton violated Ms. Bogan’s rights under both the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Ms. Bogan is entitled to her damages. * * *30. To the extent that Trooper Hamilton unreasonably extended the length of the traffic stop beyond the time necessary to present Ms. Bogan with a warning ticket Trooper Hamilton violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
31. Trooper Hamilton’s proselytizing and coercive questions concerning Ms. Bogan’s religious beliefs violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The pamphlet he handed Borgan can be viewed here.
Indiana State Police are not commenting on the case.