About That Gossip …

Gossip
The gossip published by some websites can be quite misleading. For example, last June, truthuncensored.net published a story titled “Christian Police Officer Loses Appeal And Will Be Forced To Attend Mosque”, while beforeitsnews.com proclaimed “Tulsa Police Capt Paul Fields demoted for refusing to attend Islamic indoctrination”.

Both of those websites are wrong about what happened in Tulsa. To understand why, here are excerpts from local news stories about this particular case:

A federal judge has ruled against Tulsa Police Captain Paul Fields and his lawsuit against the City of Tulsa.

He had sued the city after being disciplined for refusing to attend or order his officers to attend a law enforcement appreciation day event at a mosque.

Fields said following that order violated his religious rights.

The judge said Fields did not have to attend, but had the option to send others, so his religious rights were not violated.

The judge added, even if Fields had been ordered to go, he did not have to partake of the religious services being offered at the event.

…and…

A flyer from the Islamic Society of Tulsa invites all Tulsa officers to attend the law enforcement appreciation day on March 4, 2011.

“We tried to anticipate these concerns by stating on the invitation what time the prayer service begins and ends so they could come observe if they wanted or if they wanted nothing to do with the religious portion, they could come, eat, visit and leave at their leisure,” Sheryl Siddiqui, Islamic Society of Tulsa, said…

… [Deputy] Chief Daryl Webster responded with an interoffice correspondence that it was a community outreach operation, which is a function of community policing, which is as much a part of police work as responding to calls.

Webster noted that officers have been assigned to similar outreach events at the Jewish Community Center, churches in north Tulsa to reach out to African American citizens and churches in east Tulsa to reach out to Hispanic residents.

Here is the statement about this situation that the Tulsa Police Department issued:

The Tulsa Police Department has been invited to a Law Enforcement Appreciation Event at the Islamic Society of Tulsa. One of the Department’s missions is that of Community Outreach. To facilitate this effort, the Police Department determined this event was a community outreach opportunity and attendance was appropriate.

This community outreach event is a function of community policing which is every bit as much a part of this department’s mission as call response. This event is an opportunity to meet the public we serve, exchange information and build trust.

Furthermore, the Department never has and never will select who we provide services for based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity or preferences. Police officers often are required to contact citizens of diverse backgrounds and provide equal service regardless of any real or perceived bias.

Contrary to what may have already been reported in scheduling this event, the Police Department and the Islamic Society of Tulsa very deliberately arranged attendance so that officers need not participate in any religious discussion or observance that would create any discomfort or inconvenience for them.

The Tulsa Police Department is disappointed that our department’s position has been so thoroughly misstated.

Here is an excerpt from the ruling that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals made about the Fields case:

Fields claims that TPD violated the Establishment Clause because the Attendance Order and the conduct of the event conveyed an official endorsement of Islam. But given the history, purpose, and context of the order, it would be unreasonable to conclude that the order or TPD’s attendance at the event was such an endorsement.

TPD had engaged in community policing for more than two decades, participating in about 3,500 community events between 2004 and 2011. Of those events, more than 350 were held at religious venues or institutions or were sponsored by religious organizations of various faiths. After TPD spent months protecting the Islamic Society and the school next door from a terrorist threat, the Society decided to hold the “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” event to thank TPD for its help…

…No informed reasonable person could view the purpose or effect of TPD’s attendance at the event as suggesting that Islam is a preferred religion. Officers attending the event were not required to attend a religious service (and the timing of visits ensured that no officer would be required to be there during a service), read Islamic literature, or even discuss Islam. Those who wished to learn more about Islam could do so. The Establishment Clause does not prohibit governmental efforts to promote tolerance, understanding, and neighborliness. There is no evidence in the record of any attempts to convert officers to Islam, as opposed to providing information. And in any event, if perhaps some representatives of the Center crossed the line, there is nothing that would suggest to a reasonable observer that such conduct had received governmental endorsement.

Law professor Eugene Volokh writes that the Court’s analysis “is generally quite sound.”

So, the purpose of the event held by Islamic Society of Tulsa was not to indoctrinate or proselytize police officers. The officers who attended were not required to participate in a Muslim worship service. On the contrary, the event was scheduled during a time when there was no Muslim worship service taking place. Also, the officers were not required to participate a pro-Islam discussion or to read literature about Islam.

Furthermore, Tulsa police officers have previously attended events hosted by Jewish groups and by Christian churches. Yet, nobody has filed a lawsuit claiming that the Tulsa Police Department was endorsing Judaism or Christianity.

As it turns out, “about 150 Tulsa police officers, plus members of the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office and FBI attended” the Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. “The 2011 event was a “thank you” for Tulsa police’s protection of the mosque and adjacent school after a threat in 2010 against the Islamic Society.”

It is sad when a group’s effort to thank the local police is misinterpreted. It is also sad when gossip spreads faster than facts do.

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By the way, if a single guest-speaker at a religious institution defines that institution, then Liberty University is a liberal Democrat university, because Ted Kennedy once gave a speech there.

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Personal Note: The aforementioned news story is a local story for me, one that I have been following since it began 3 1/2 years ago.

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Quote Sources (in order of appearance):
NewsOn6.com, Judge Dismisses Capt. Paul Fields’ Case Against City Of Tulsa
NewsOn6.com, Documents Detail Tulsa Police Captain’s Discipline For Refusing Order
United States Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit, Paul Campbell Fields v. City of Tulsa
Eugene Volokh, Police captain who refused order to go to “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” at mosque — or send his subordinates there — loses his lawsuit
Tulsa World, Appeals court rules against Tulsa officer in mosque lawsuit

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