INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana State Police on Thursday fired a trooper who has been accused of proselytizing citizens while on the job.
Senior Trooper Brian Hamilton was a 14-year veteran of the agency. In a news release Thursday, the department said he was terminated after a two-month internal investigation into a complaint that he questioned a citizen's religious affiliation in January.
Hamilton's firing comes two days after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Wendy Pyle, who accused Hamilton of asking her whether "she had been saved" after pulling her over in Fayette County in January. Court documents claim Hamilton then told the woman about his church and gave her directions to it.
"While all of us — citizen and police officer — enjoy the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, there are appropriate and proper restrictions placed on agents of the State related to their actions while engaged in their official duties," said ISP Superintendent Doug Carter in a statement. “While I respect Mr. Hamilton’s religious views I am also charged to respect every citizen’s rights and the best way forward for the citizens of Indiana, and for Mr. Hamilton, was to end his employment as a state police officer.”
A call to a phone number associated with Hamilton was not immediately returned Thursday.
It's unclear whether that lawsuit centers around the same complaint that led Hamilton to lose his job. State police officials say they do not release information about complainants.
ISP Capt. Dave Bursten said the department's internal investigation was separate from the lawsuit pending against Hamilton, adding that it "would have occurred regardless of any legal action initiated" by the ACLU.
Hamilton, Bursten said, had been on administrative desk duty since the complaint was filed Jan. 15. He is the sole defendant named in the ACLU suit.
Hamilton had earlier been the subject of a similar federal lawsuit in 2014, when a woman named Ellen Bogan claimed Hamilton stopped her that August for an alleged traffic violation in Union County. After he handed her a warning ticket, she said, he asked her if she had a home church and whether she accepted Jesus Christ as her savior.
Bogan’s lawsuit was eventually settled. According to court records, Hamilton was counseled not to question others regarding their religious beliefs, nor was he to provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements to them.
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