Indiana trooper still using traffic stops to preach about Jesus — despite lawsuit and warning
An Indiana state trooper who has been warned to stop preaching to motorists has been sued again for proselytizing during a traffic stop.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of a Fayette County woman who said Trooper Brian Hamilton, of Indiana State Police, questioned her about religion after pulling her over in January for speeding, reported the Indianapolis Star.
Wendy Pyle said Hamilton let her off with a warning, but then he asked what church she went to and whether she had been saved.
The woman said she answered yes to both questions because she was uncomfortable and wanted the traffic stop to end.
The trooper then invited Pyle to his church and gave her directions there, the lawsuit claims.
Hamilton was sued in September 2014 after another woman said the trooper had asked her similar questions after letting her off with a warning during a traffic stop the month before.
The driver in that case said she felt she was unable to leave or refuse questioning because the trooper, who handed her a pamphlet asking her to acknowledge her sinful nature, was in uniform and had his patrol car parked behind hers.
The woman said she felt compelled to say she attended church, even though she does not, because Hamilton was an on-duty law enforcement officer.
That case was settled, and court documents show Hamilton was told to stop promoting his religious beliefs while working.
“When he’s engaged in the official acts of his job, especially when he’s a police officer, those kinds of stops are inherently coercive,” said civil rights attorney Richard Waples. “That is not the time to be talking to people about their religion.”
Waples, who is not associated with either case, said the trooper’s actions violate the First and Fourth Amendments of the drivers he preaches to, and he said the prior lawsuit could make Hamilton liable to punitive damages in the latest case.
Pyle filed a formal complaint with ISP shortly after the incident, and she said the agency assured her she would not suffer any backlash.
But she said a member of Hamilton’s church later approached her and said the trooper had placed her name on a prayer list.
ISP declined to comment on the pending litigation, but a representative confirmed that Hamilton had been taken off patrol duties Jan. 15, shortly after a complaint was filed against him.