Friday, May 23, 2014

10th Circuit OK's Discipline of Police Officer Who Refused Order On Attendance At Mosque's Police Appreciation Event

In Fields v. City of Tulsa, (10th Cir., May 22, 2014), the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a civil rights complaint filed by Tulsa, Oklahoma police captain Paul Fields who refused to comply with an order requiring him to arrange for two officers and a supervisor from his shift to attend a law enforcement appreciation day held at the Islamic Society of Tulsa. Fields objected that the order required him to enter a Mosque.  The department suspended Fields for 10 days without pay and transferred him to a less attractive shift because of his refusal. Fields sued, claiming violations of the free exercise clause, establishment clause, his right to freedom of association and the equal protection clause.  The court rejected all of these claims. The court held there was no free exercise violation because Fields wan not personally required to attend under the order. The event was a thank you from the Islamic community to the police department and did not require anyone to participate in religious activities. Tours of the mosque and discussions of Islam at the event were purely voluntary.

The court also upheld the refusal to allow Fields to amend his complaint to allege retaliation for filing the lawsuit in violation of his free speech rights. It concluded that the police department had a compelling interest that outweighed any restriction on speech. The Tulsa World reports that Fields lawyer says he will seek en banc review of the decision.