LA police officer sues for religious infringement

By Justin Stoltzfus | Jun 28, 2018

In a complaint filed in Louisiana Court June 22, a former member of an Ascension Parrish Police Department alleges that during the time he was employed there, from 2006 to 2017 on his resignation, he was improperly solicited by his boss to attend mandatory religious counseling meetings and that the chief of police, Esdron Brown, said he wanted a “saved” Police Department.

A statement of fact in the plaintiff's complaint shows that when Marshall had to take family time to care for his sick 10-year-old son, he was written up for missing a meeting with a chaplain. As a result, the complaint says, Marshall had his vehicle take-home privileges suspended for 30 days and had to attend additional chaplain sessions. Plaintiff also alleges the chief threatened termination for not meeting with the chaplain.

Marshall's lawyers contend that his rights under the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution protect him from improper infringement on religious freedom.

“The conduct undertaken by Chief Brown as described herein above suggests that he willfully and intentionally violated and deprived Plaintiff of his constitutional rights and, consequently, is liable for damages under the Civil Rights Act,” lawyers for the plaintiff wrote. 

The suit also includes the Port Allen Police Department and the City of Port Allen, which lawyers say were “vicariously liable” for the Chief's actions.

The complaint notes that Marshall characterizes the violations as “caused through the persistent and widespread implementation of customs, policies, and ...official acts of Chief Brown, the Port Allen Police Department and the City of Port Allen, and … the failure of the City of Port Allen to ensure the implementation of policies and procedures ... designed to prevent such violations.” 

Plaintiff is asking for a trial by jury on three counts: violation of the first amendment's establishment clause, violation of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Louisiana Whistleblower Claim. 

“Plaintiff was subjected to continuous and incessant religious harassment by Chief Brown that resulted in a palpable hostile working environment that the Chief willfully created and knowingly fostered,” Marshall's attorneys wrote. 

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