Arguments Made In Case Of TPD Captain Who Refused To Attend Mosque Event
TULSA, Oklahoma - A federal judge will decide this week whether the Tulsa Police Department violated the religious rights of Captain Paul Fields.
Fields sued the department after he was punished for refusing to attend or order officers to attend a law enforcement appreciation day at a mosque.
Lawyers for both sides made their final arguments before the judge Tuesday afternoon.
Captain Fields said he refused the order, because it was against his religious beliefs, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution.
But, the city said he was given a legal order and failed to follow it and his reasons are less about religion and more about disliking the supervisor who issued the order.
Attorneys for Fields said this case is at the core of our constitutional right to freedom of religion.
They said Fields had no problems when going to the law enforcement appreciation day was voluntary, even though there were going to be religious services and people talking about Islam at the event. But, when no one volunteered and it turned into an order, he said he refused, because it violated his religious beliefs. And he was punished.
His attorneys said, the very next day, the department made it voluntary again, so Fields was effectively singled out.
"What changed everything is when the order came out to be mandatory," said Robert Muise, of the American Freedom Law Center.
The City of Tulsa said it can't have officers ignoring orders, and officers have attended hundreds of such events at religious locations in the past with no problem.
"Paul Fields was given a viable, legal order and failed to follow that order," said Gerry Bender, of the City Litigation Division.
The City said Fields' religious beliefs were not violated and that he refused because he holds strong anti-Islamic beliefs and dislikes the supervisor who issued the order.
"There's issues between Captain Fields and Deputy Chief Webster, and a large part of it was Paul Fields saying, ‘I'm not going to do what you tell me to do,'" Bender said.
Fields' attorney argued not one of those hundreds of other similar events was ever mandatory.
He said Fields didn't want to be subjected to another religion's practices, when he couldn't talk about his own, which is prohibited while in uniform.
"They want to vilify Captain Fields, but the people who know him the best—Chief Jordan, who testified in deposition that he absolutely understood Captain Fields has deep religious beliefs and was acting pursuant to those beliefs," Muise said.