An Indiana woman says a state trooper pulled her over this summer and asked if she had accepted Jesus Christ as her personal lord and savior.
Ellen Bogan said she was stopped in August by Indiana State Trooper Brian Hamilton, who asked whether she had a home church and handed her a pamphlet asking her to “acknowledge she is a sinner.”
"It's completely out of line and it just — it took me back,” Bogan told The Indianapolis Star.
She filed a federal lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union against Hamilton, claiming the trooper violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights.
Bogan said she felt she could not leave or refuse questioning because the trooper was in uniform and had his patrol car parked behind hers.
"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."
If Bogan’s claims are true, an expert told the newspaper, the trooper clearly violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause.
"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," said Jennifer Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
She said the trooper was representing the government, so he was “basically overstepping” by “trying to establish religion.”
A spokesman for the Indiana State Police said there was no specific policy against troopers handing out religious materials.
Bogan said the trooper gave her a pamphlet advertising the “Policing for Jesus Ministries” radio program hosted by “Trooper Dan Jones.”
She said she does not go to church, but she felt compelled to tell the trooper she did.
“It was just weird,” Bogan told the newspaper.