Publication date: 2002-07-15
Arrival time: 2002-07-24
SEATTLE (AP) A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a federal judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit by a Jehovah’s Witness who quit the Washington State Patrol academy because he believed he would have to take an oath of allegiance and salute the flag.
Gregory Lawson, a Jehovah’s Witness and a State Patrol cadet, says his faith would not allow him to salute the flag nor swear allegiance to the United States and State of Washington as part of the trooper’s oath.
He believed the patrol would not accommodate his religious beliefs, so he resigned in the first week of a six-month session at the academy in 1998, deciding he could ultimately face expulsion if he refused to take the oath or salute the flag.
Lawson, a Shelton resident, later sued, claiming religious discrimination. A federal judge in Tacoma
dismissed the lawsuit, saying Lawson didn’t have enough evidence to take his case to a jury.
Lawson’s attorneys say he wanted to stay in the academy, and he had suggested he could stand silently by as other cadets saluted the flag.
Carol Smith-Merkulov, a senior counsel in the Attorney General’s Office, said the patrol has accommodated troopers of many faiths. She said she didn’t know if any troopers are Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that the patrol would have accommodated Lawson, too.
She disputed Lawson’s contention that a counselor in the academy and a patrol captain told him they could not accommodate his religious beliefs.
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