police captain sues department over mosque assignment

Oklahoma police captain sues department over mosque assignment

A Tulsa police officer and devout Christian is suing his department after  being punished for refusing to go to a mosque for a mandatory cultural  event.

Police Capt. Paul Campbell Fields, a 17-year veteran, was docked two weeks’  pay, transferred, reduced to the graveyard shift and made ineligible for  promotions for at least a year, after he told his chief his faith made it  impossible for him to attend a “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” at the Islamic  Cultural Society of Tulsa, according to the lawsuit.

Fields, 43, is a non-denominational Christian, who quoted Scripture in legal  explanation of his insubordination.   “This event is compelling me  to go to a venue where a group of individuals is prepared to discuss their  (Islamic) faith,” Fields said during a May 2012 deposition, the transcript of  which was obtained by “And in my faith, I have a duty to  proselytize my faith to people (who) don’t subscribe to my faith. I can’t do  that in uniform. And so therein lies the conflict or moral dilemma I face.”   Fields’ attorney, Robert Muise of The American Freedom Law Center,  elaborated, “He was going to be in a place where people were going to refer to  Jesus Christ as merely a prophet and not his Lord and Savior.   “And he wouldn’t be able to respond to them in any way,” Muise added. “That was  very troubling to him.”   Fields is seeking his docked pay,  attorney’s fees, as well as compensatory damages for the “humiliation” — and  damage to his reputation — he suffered as a result of the affair.   The donnybrook has its origins in a Jan. 25, 2011, Tulsa Police  Department staff meeting, in which Deputy Police Chief Alvin Webster informed  fellow officers of the March 4 event at the Islamic center.   At  that point, attendance was voluntary, according to the lawsuit.   The Islamic Cultural Center of Tulsa did not return calls or emails from, but a promotional flier for the event cited in the suit states the  event would include meetings with Muslim community leaders, a tour of the  center’s mosque, talks on Islam, as well as a 45-minute prayer service.   On Feb. 17, Webster sent out another email stating that attendance  at the event was no longer voluntary, and that Fields was to order at least a  few of the 25 or so men under his command to accompany him, there.   Fields replied that he believed the said order was an unlawful one,  “in direct conflict with my personal religious convictions.” In that email,  Fields described Webster’s order as, “conscience shocking.”   Fields cc’d the department’s chief, Charles W. Jordan, as well as other  superiors on the email.   Four days later, Fields found himself  explaining his actions at a  meeting in Jordan’s conference room. There,  Webster asked — on tape — if Fields had solicited volunteers to attend the  Islamic center’s event.   “Yes, I have,” Fields replied, to which  Webster asked, according to the suit, “Okay, and the response?”   “Is zero,” replied the captain.   “All right,” said Webster, “And  so that makes this fairly easy. Are you prepared to designate two officers and a  supervisor or yourself to attend this event?”   “No,” said Fields,  to which Webster replied by slapping the captain with the aforementioned  punishments. Since then, Fields has toiled, according Muise, from 8:45 p.m. to  about 7 a.m. on the “graveyard shift.”
On Feb. 24, the department made  the Islamic center event voluntary for all officers, although with a catch.  Officers could give a medical excuse for not going, but not one based on  religious grounds, the suit states.   For its part, the City of  Tulsa denied comment other than to say, “The police department serves every  citizen regardless of demographics. We cannot comment in this case or on any  pending litigation.”   Fields has said that if it were merely a  police matter to which he was called, requiring him to enter a mosque, he would  have no problem doing his duty as an officer.   The married man  also added during the May deposition, “I’m a Christian. Okay? I accepted Jesus  Christ as my Lord and Savior. As a Christian, I have a duty to proselytize the  Gospel of Jesus Christ.   “I also have a duty to repent for my sins  and I have a duty to increase my … relationship with the Lord through the  Scripture and good deeds.   “As I said before — I don’t know that  I can make it any clearer. Islam is not my faith. It’s different than my  religion … And when I come to work, I don’t presume to know someone’s  religion. It doesn’t enter into the question when I’m providing a police call  for service.
“Here, I have an instance where I’m being compelled to  attend an event that’s very — it’s an open invitation to discuss their religion  …and yet I can’t express my faith to them.”   Fields declined to  comment directly on the matter. His attorney, Muise, initially replied to a 1  p.m. call from by saying he was sleeping, having returned from the  night shift shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.