INDIANAPOLIS -- Should an Indiana State Police trooper have been fired for sharing his faith during traffic stops when the state's elected officials aren't penalized for doing the same?
Trooper Brian Hamilton was fired Thursday after 14 years with the Indiana State Police for asking a woman about her faith and what church she attended during a traffic stop.
Wendy Pyle and the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Hamilton this week – the second such lawsuit he's faced for similar actions. In 2014, Hamilton was accused of prolonging a traffic stop by asking a woman about her faith, then handing her a pamphlet about how to become a Christian.
State police said Hamilton was fired for insubordination and neglect of duty, and ISP Superintendent Doug Carter said that while Hamilton has the right to freedom of religion and speech, "there are appropriate and proper restrictions placed on agents of the State related to their actions while engaged in their official duties."
But those same restrictions are not applied to the state's elected officials, many of whom, like Gov. Mike Pence, speak openly and often about their faith.
Last March, Pence – who has never had qualms about pronouncing his Christian faith – was criticized for privately signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. The press and public weren't allowed to attend the signing – but a photo released from the event showed a number of members of Indiana's religious communities were.
In January, during his State of the State address, Pence spoke at length about protecting the freedom of religious beliefs and invoked God's blessing on four separate occasions.
On Thursday, just hours after ISP announced Hamilton's firing, Pence tweeted this from his official account:
With faith in our state, faith in our country, and faith in God, I know Indiana's best days are yet to come. pic.twitter.com/kx7vFVMUtv
— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) April 8, 2016
But displays of religiosity aren't limited just to the governor's office. Lawmakers in both chambers of the state legislature cited their religious beliefs as reasons for supporting Indiana's controversial new abortion law. And in March, Hoosier evangelist (and former RTV6 employee) Clayton Jennings was invited to deliver a prayer on the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives:
My highly controversial prayer at the House of Representatives today. It's time for the leaders of this nation to turn to God. JESUS > POLITICS. Share if you agree.Friend me here: Clayton JenningsI'm on a mission to tell the world about our Savior. Join me at crusades across the nation: ClaytonJennings.com and follow the journey here: Instagram.com/ClaytonJennings1
Posted by Clayton Jennings on Wednesday, March 9, 2016
While the debate over where to properly draw the line between the separation of church and state isn't limited to Indiana, who else should Hoosiers look to for guidance but their own elected officials?
Should state employees be able to share their faith on the job? Should elected officials? What's the proper role for religion in politics? We invite you to weigh in on the discussion in the comment section below and on the RTV6 Facebook page.