A police officer in Pennsylvania was suspended 10 days for going to church while on duty, and now he says his constitutional rights have been violated.
Mark Hovan, a 20-year veteran of the Middletown Police Department, attended two services at Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church while on active duty.
The first occurrence cited in the suspension was in January. Hovan attended church in uniform on Sunday morning, and was formally reprimanded by his chief and told not to do it again.
“Never conduct personal business on Middletown Police Department time,” the warning read.
The second occurrence was Aug. 15, which spurred an investigation and disciplinary hearing, after which the city council voted 4-1 to uphold Police Chief George Mouchette’s recommendation of a 10-day suspension.
Why did he go to church on duty?
Hovan said he is a devout Catholic, and it is necessary for him to attend services on duty to fulfill the “Holy Days of Obligation,” such as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
He also said previous police chiefs allowed it (Mouchette arrived in January), and he’s never missed a call in his career.
What did the Council say?
One councilor abstained on the advice of the city’s solicitor.
Councilor Robert Reid voted no, saying a 10-day suspension was too severe.
Councilor Ben Kapenstein said he upheld the suspension because the chief “sees the day-to-day, I go with what he recommends.”
Hovan is considering legal action, saying he believes his religious freedom has been infringed upon.