Fired religious law officer loses Supreme Court case

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from an Indiana law officer fired for refusing to work at a casino.

The state trooper had said that the gambling enforcement assignment would force him to violate his religious beliefs.

Benjamin Endres sued the state and lost. He wanted the Supreme Court to use his case to require law enforcement agencies to accommodate the religious views of employees. Justices refused to take on another religious case.

Endres, who is Baptist, said he was not opposed to general casino crime-fighting, but could not go along when the state designated him a full-time gaming officer and ordered him to report to a casino in Michigan City, Ind.

A federal law protects people from discrimination based on religion. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said the law does not require police and fire departments to assign workers to duties compatible with their principles.

That would be tough, the appeals judges said, because of the varying religious objections. “Must prostitutes be left exposed to slavery or murder at the hands of pimps because protecting them from crime would encourage them to ply their trade and thus offend almost every religious faith?” the court asked.

One of the attorneys representing Endres, Jeremy Taylor, told justices that “public servants will find their religious freedom in greater peril than those they protect.”

Also Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that would clarify when law officers can be sued for arresting suspects, on charges that later fall apart.

Justices will consider the appeal of two Washington state patrol officers who arrested a man for tape recording their conversation during a traffic stop. The man spent the night in jail.

An appeals court said the officers did not have probable cause to arrest Jerome Anthony “Tony” Alford in 1997 for violating a state privacy law — because the taping was not illegal.

Alford filed a lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated, but the officers argued in their defense that they had probable cause to arrest him on other charges, because he appeared to be impersonating an officer and his car was equipped with flashing headlights like those on police cars and he had a police scanner, handcuffs and special radio.

Alford’s lawyer told justices in a filing that officers “are not entitled to rationalize a bad arrest by dredging up any illegal conduct that the plaintiff might have (at some time) committed.”

But Washington state attorneys, backed by California, argued that officers need flexibility to make arrests.

The cases are Endres v. Indiana State Police 03-1183 and Devenpeck v. Alford, 03-710.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Press, USA
Apr. 19, 2004
Gina Holland
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 19, 2004.
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