More of the double-standard that is emerging in the U.S. If it was a Muslim who was demoted and suspended for refusing to attend a church or a synagogue – terror-linked CAIR would be shaking down the department and Obama would have Eric Holder on a red eye to Tulsa. Like they did when the overwhelming majority of Oklahoman’s voted to ban sharia law from state courts. But no. via Judge: Officer’s mosque lawsuit not about personal rights | Tulsa World.
A federal judge ruled this week that Tulsa Police Capt. Paul Fields’ lawsuit over his refusal to attend a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day last March at a local mosque may not be expanded to include a First Amendment freedom of speech claim, ruling it would be “futile.”
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell wrote, “Fields has offered no case law for the proposition that filing a lawsuit turns a dispute over the violation of personal rights into a public concern that implicates the First Amendment.”
Frizzell also denied Fields’ attempt to add a claim under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, writing that nothing the city of Tulsa – or other defendants – allegedly did kept Fields from practicing his religion.
The Law Enforcement Appreciation Day was held at an Islamic Society of Tulsa mosque March 4 to give the group a chance to show its gratitude for police officers’ response to a threat against it.
However, Fields refused to attend the event based on his religious beliefs and also refused to require his subordinates to attend.
Fields filed the first version of his Tulsa federal court lawsuit on Feb. 23 against Deputy Chief Daryl Webster, claiming that Webster retaliated against him and singled out Fields for disparate treatment because of the stance he took.
The first incarnation of the lawsuit was filed two days after Fields was “temporarily transferred” from the Police Department’s Riverside Division to another patrol shift at the Mingo Valley Division.
Fields stated in correspondence with a superior that he considered an order to attend the event to be “an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with (his) personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience shocking.”
He also told his superiors that he would not require any of his subordinates to follow the order “if they share similar religious convictions.”
On March 23, Fields filed another version of the suit adding the city of Tulsa and Police Chief Chuck Jordan as defendants.
Fields filed a motion June 16 attempting to add claims under the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause and under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, which states that “no governmental entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion” unless that burden passes strict scrutiny.
The defense objected to expanding the lawsuit based on either claim. It alleged in an Oct. 12 filing that Fields’ had engaged in “professional” speech not entitled to constitutional protection and also that the attempt to include the Oklahoma law “must” fail because Fields could not show “a substantial burden upon the exercise of his religious beliefs.”
Frizzell wrote in a Monday order that – while the lawsuit remains alive on previously filed claims such as those brought under the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the U.S. Constitution – adding a free speech claim would be “futile.”
Besides news coverage, Fields’ lawsuit even spawned an Aug. 30 rally that drew demonstrators who supported Fields’ position – as well as counter demonstrators – to downtown Tulsa.
Frizzell wrote this week that “merely bringing the alleged violation of his personal rights to public attention through filing a lawsuit does not make it a matter of public concern” that implicates freedom of speech rights. He wrote that Fields’ grievances about internal matters at TPD and the terms of his employment “are not matters of public concern.”
Scott Wood, one of the attorneys representing Fields, said Wednesday that though the plaintiff’s side is “disappointed” in Frizzell’s decision this week, it still has the claims that were in the March 23 version of the lawsuit to pursue.
Wood said he anticipates depositions will begin in January.
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