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An Indiana state trooper is facing a lawsuit for allegedly asking a driver if she had "accepted Jesus Christ as her savior" and handing her a religious pamphlet during a traffic stop.
Motorist Ellen Bogan claims she was stopped on U.S. Route 27 by Trooper Brian Hamilton for making an illegal pass. Hamilton issued Bogan a warning ticket for a traffic violation, but then allegedly began inquiring about her religious beliefs, reports Cincinnati's WLWT-TV.
Bogan and the American Civil Liberties Union are now claiming that Hamilton's actions violated Bogan's constitutional rights.
According to Bogan's lawsuit, filed last month in federal court, after issuing her a warning ticket for speeding, Hamilton asked Bogan whether he could ask her a personal question, which Bogan "did not feel she could refuse."
Hamilton then allegedly asked whether Bogan had a home church and whether she had accepted Christ as her savior. Bogan said yes to both, according to her lawsuit, "because she wanted to terminate the conversation and believed this was the best way to do so."
But before ending the conversation, Hamilton went to his car and returned with a pamphlet for the First Baptist Church, which highlighted a radio broadcast by Trooper Dan Jones called "Policing for Jesus Ministries." The pamphlet also advised readers to "realize you're a sinner" and that salvation is "received by faith in Jesus Christ."
A federal statute typically referred to as Section 1983 prohibits the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the U.S. Constitution by any a person acting on behalf of the government. It is often used to file lawsuits alleging police misconduct, including false arrest or police brutality.
In this case, Bogan claims that Hamilton's actions during the traffic stop violated her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, and that Hamilton's questions to her violated her First Amendment religious freedoms.
At this point, it's not clear how Trooper Brian Hamilton plans to defend himself in light of Bogan's allegations. A state police spokesman confirmed that the department was aware of the lawsuit but declined to comment further, reports WLWT-TV.
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