Louisville officer sues city for suspending him while praying outside an abortion clinic while off-duty

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LOUISVILLE, KY – A Louisville, Kentucky police officer is suing the town’s mayor, police chief, and police department for investigating and suspending him over his off-duty prayer at an abortion clinic.

The federal lawsuit was filed October 4, 2021, by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of Officer Matthew Schrenger. The complaint states that the City of Louisville and the Louisville Metro Police Department violated the officer’s constitutional and civil rights.

Specifically, Schrenger claims LMPD, Chief Erika Shields and Mayor Greg Fischer violated his First and 14th Amendment rights to free speech, free expression, and equal protection, as well as the federal Civil Rights Act and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Matt Heffron explained:

“A quiet, off-duty prayer, on a public sidewalk, resulted in Officer Matt Schrenger being immediately suspended for over four months, stripped of his police powers, and placed under investigation.

“No one should be treated the way the Louisville police chief and city government treated one of their finest, but it’s particularly awful because they punished him for praying, of all things…and while off duty, no less.”

Schrenger was with his father praying on the sidewalk outside the center in the early morning hours of Feb. 20, before his shift began, according to the suit.

Schrenger was not on duty at the time of the prayer.

The lawsuit said his prayer was “in support of the lives ended by abortion,” and he and his father alternatingly wore a “40 Days for Life” sign, which is part of a religious campaign to end abortion through peaceful prayer.

Photos that show an LMPD cruiser and allegedly showing Schrenger were shared to a Twitter account run by clinic escorts at the EMW Women’s Surgical Center.  The post resulted in complaints from abortion rights activists and some local leaders, and LMPD launched an investigation.

The officer reported for duty later that morning. That same day, Schrenger discovered he was locked out of his work computers, relieved of his police vehicle, and removed from the patrol schedule.

Schrenger was suspended and he was stripped of his police powers, pending an investigation of his off-duty prayer.

The officer was accused of violating Louisville Metro Police Department Standard Operating Procedures and Kentucky law.

LMPD Chief Erika Shields wrote a letter dated June 15, 2021, clearing the officer of any wrong-doing. Despite the decision, his police powers remained suspended for more than four more months.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Monday claims “LMPD wrongly accused Schrenger of violating LMPD Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Kentucky law.”

It went on to say other LMPD officers had participated while in uniform “in an LGBT parade and in Black Lives Matter protests.”

The lawsuit states:

“Under these circumstances, where Schrenger’s conduct admittedly was not clearly prohibited, there should have been no suspension and no investigation. Officer Schrenger is a 13-year LMPD veteran, with multiple commendations, and without any significant previous complaint against him. He has four young children to support.

“He is the sort of officer LMPD easily could have talked to, if LMPD found his off-duty prayer activities to be inappropriate.”

Attorney Heffron said:

“It is astounding to those of us defending him – shocking actually — that the police department would treat a loyal, hard-working officer this way.

“It’s particularly interesting that while Officer Schrenger did not engage in any political protest on duty and did not display his uniform, he was treated very differently than other similarly situated Louisville Metro Police Department officers who had undeniably engaged in true political protest and activism.”

The officer’s attorney said the city was not investigating Schrenger for violating police or city policy. He said they were going after him because of his beliefs:

“Officer Matt Schrenger’s real ‘sin’ in the eyes of certain city hierarchy was that his quiet prayer was for the end of abortion. Certain members of the city government publicly made it known they would not tolerate his opinion, and the police chief either agreed or perhaps just followed their lead.

“They thought they could get away with abusing a good officer with a four-month suspension without any reasonable basis. They left his career and his livelihood dangling. Now the city government will face the consequences of their actions, which are illegal under the Civil Rights Act and under the Constitution.”

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LET Unity

‘Satan’s Power was defeated’: High School football team defies county by leading fans in prayer

September 21, 2021

 

PUTNAM COUNTY, TN – After a school board in Tennessee told school officials, including teachers and coaches, that they were not permitted to lead students in prayer, angry parents and members of the football team decided to act.

 

The order from the school board followed a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In the letter written to the Putnam County School District, the group wrote that “there were several instances of prayer and proselytizing at events at Cookeville and Upperman high schools.”

A Putnam County Schools spokesman told local media:

“The case law not allowing prayer or proselytizing is clear. Courts have consistently ruled that prayer and proselytizing cannot be sponsored by schools or school personnel.”

A statement released by the school board said that students could spontaneously pray, but staff and faculty could not participate:

“As a district, we absolutely understand the importance of prayer in the lives of our students, faculty, and staff members. “We support the right of students to participate in and lead spontaneous prayers. That right is and will continue to be protected.

“We also understand that faculty and staff members cannot lead or participate in the spontaneous student-led prayers.”

Many parents and students viewed the order of the school board as an attack on their religious freedom and were not going to sit on the sidelines. Parent Dustin Whitefield said parents decided to show their opposition to the rule at the Friday night football game between Upperman’s football game against Stone Memorial High School.

Whitfield wrote to WZTV prior to the game:

“We do realize this is a public school, but it has always been optional for players to pray and has been a voluntary event. Players that still want to pray will have to do it on their own.

“After the game, players and cheerleaders that choose to will be on the field praying on their own. A group of parents will be going out on the field to support them. We will join hands and encircle them from a distance as a sign of protection and solidarity in choosing to continue to pray.”

Whitfield asked for anyone who supported the “parent-led” event to attend:

“This is a parent led event! We are encouraging anyone that would like to show their support to please join us.”

After Opperman defeat of Stone Memorial by a score of 27-9; parents, players from both teams, and fans gathered on the field for a post-game prayer.

Bob Vick shared a photo on Facebook showing Upperman and Stone Memorial players leading fans in prayer on the field. Along with the photo, Vick wrote:

“Satan’s power was defeated tonight, as the threat of a legal action to forbid prayer after the game was overwhelmed by player lead prayer supported by parents and fans in solidarity on Overall Field.

“God bless the Baxter and Stone players for their faith and courage .” 

 

 

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