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 FoxNews.com. “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 FoxNews.com, 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 FoxNews.com by saying he was sleeping, having returned from the night shift shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.