A Tulsa, OK police captain has filed a lawsuit against a superior after he was transferred following his refusal to attend a Muslim event. According to him, ordering him to attend the event was a violation of his religious convictions, and transferring him was religious retaliation.
Capt. Paul Fields is currently under internal investigation for refusing an order to send officers to the Islamic Society of Tulsa’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day held at a local mosque:
“It is my opinion and that of my legal counsel that forcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my Civil Rights,” Fields wrote in an internal police department memo obtained by Fox News.
“I have no problem with officers attending on a voluntary basis; however, I take exception to requiring officers to attend this event,” Fields wrote in an e-mail to his superior officer again obtained by Fox News. “I believe this directive to be an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with my personal religious convictions.”
KOKI-TV in Tulsa obtained a memo from Deputy Chief Daryl Webster to Captain Paul Fields explaining that the order to send officers had nothing to do with religion.
“Since you are not required to participate or assist in any religious observance, make any expression of belief, or adopt any belief system, this meeting is a secular law enforcement function that happens to take place at a venue associated with a religious belief,” Webster writes.
“Were we to pick and choose which belief systems we would associate ourselves with as an agency or which religious venues we would enter for secular or ceremonial purposes and which we would not, then I believe there would be an issue of disparate treatment that would reflect dishonor upon us all and possibly subject the Police Department to liability," he adds.
An Islamic Society of Tulsa spokesperson told KOKI that the event was meant to say "thank you" to the police for investigating a threat made to the establishment.
"We wanted to have this opportunity to simply say thank you. I know its' at the mosque but that was the address given as the target as the threat and it only made sense to have it at the mosque,” spokesperson Sheryl Siddiqui.
But complicating Webster's claims that the event was non-religious is a promotional flyer saying the event would include “presentations” on “beliefs, human rights, and women.” Attendees would also be able to watch a Muslim prayer service and take a tour of the mosque.
Still, the flyer did note such elements were voluntary: “It’s up to you."
"This was not religious," Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan told KOKI. "I would never assign a police officer to participate in religious service."
He went on to compare the event to any other community gathering: "Its just like a neighborhood association, Alert Neighbor meetings, there are lots of concerned groups that are concerned about crime. The fact that it is in a religious facility is not that significant we go to churches all the time. We don't go to the sanctuary and we are not going to the sanctuary this time."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, didn't hesitate to label the incident an example of “anti-Muslim bigotry.”
“It’s a symptom of the unfortunately rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment we have in our society,” Hooper told Fox News. “It sends a message of marginalization that somehow Muslims aren’t part of American society.”