One can only wonder what the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) had in mind when it suspended an officer for praying the rosary in front of an abortion clinic back in February of this year.
According to reports, the unidentified police officer was off-duty. The abortion clinic was closed. He was not in uniform, and he simply walked back and forth on a nearly deserted street before dawn on a Saturday morning, and quietly prayed alone with his father for less than an hour in front of the EMW Women's Surgical Center.
But when he went to work later that morning, he discovered he'd been suspended from his job.
The officer had just started his regular patrol when he was ordered to return to his division's office. He was placed on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation. Of what? Apparently, exercising his rights as an American citizen and conversing with the Almighty in front of an abortion clinic raised some sort of concern in the police department.
Thus, a decorated 13-year veteran, with no prior disciplinary violations and a wife and four young children to support, ended up on indefinite leave because of his supposedly egregious act of praying.
The department sent the officer notices of potential violations of their Standard Operating Procedures and a Kentucky statute. But Thomas More Society attorney Matt Heffron who defended the officer said none of the rules had been violated.
"None of the officer's off-duty prayer was covered by the LMPD allegations, and any formal punishment, under these circumstances, would violate his First Amendment rights," Heffron said.
Thomas More Society attorneys also sent an open-records request to LMPD and discovered that not all political speech is regarded in the same way by the department. While it launched an investigation of the "praying police officer," the police department had not taken any disciplinary action - investigation or otherwise - against on-duty, uniformed officers who marched with Black Lives Matter protestors and in LGBT parades.
"The facts have been undisputed from the start – the whole event was captured on the abortion clinic's security video," said Heffron. "It showed two men, nondescriptly dressed, walking quietly back and forth as they said the rosary. The abortion clinic was closed and the street in front of it was practically deserted."
"It was quickly clear to our lawyers, LMPD did not have a foot to stand on," Heffron added. "It's too bad it took LMPD four months to figure it out."
Today, the praying cop is back at work.
"We are happy for the officer that the Louisville Police Department finally did the right thing and put a good policeman back on the streets," Heffron said. "But it is astounding to those of us defending him – shocking actually – that the police department would treat a hardworking, loyal officer this way. They left him twisting in the wind for four months because of off-duty prayer."
CBN News reached out last week to Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields for comment concerning the officer’s suspension over his prayer in front of the abortion clinic. On Monday, we received a statement from the chief’s office which said, “the officer, a 13-year veteran, was never suspended. Instead, as with all Professional Standard Unit investigations, the officer was placed on Administrated Leave.”