A police officer in Oklahoma has been disciplined for refusing to attend a Muslim prayer service. Not, I hasten to add, to provide security. Not, I emphasize, because the Muslims were in some special need of protection. No, the prayer service at the mosque was an "appreciation day" for law enforcement, and it went from being voluntary to being mandatory when it turned out that, surprise surprise, none of the officers wanted to attend. So Paul Campbell Fields was ordered to go and to bring two more policemen with him.
Lest there be any unclarity regarding the religious nature of this event,
a promotional flier for the event cited in the suit states the event would include meetings with Muslim community leaders, a tour of the center's mosque, talks on Islam, as well as a 45-minute prayer service.
It goes without saying that there is no question here of religious dialogue. The officers were to be there to listen quietly to the talks and to attend a forty-five-minute prayer service.
Frankly, I almost wish the policeman bringing suit were an atheist. That would bring out even more clearly the blatant parallels to other first amendment cases. You know, cases in which it was said that atheists couldn't even be asked by a government entity to stand still and behave respectfully for a single prayer opening a sports event or a graduation ceremony.
Now, you can say that such precedents were wrongly decided, and I would be inclined to agree. But the fact remains that here we have a local government entity, a city police department, demanding that its police officers go, not as part of their duty to protect the public but rather as some sort of "cultural" outreach, and sit through a lengthy set of events promoting Islam, including a forty-five minute prayer service. Under current First Amendment precedents, this policy should be a knock-down: Unconstitutional, unconstitutional, unconstitutional, and out. That the department would even try such a thing just goes to show the double standard, so blatant and so extreme that the phrase "double standard" does not even do it justice, between the treatment of Islam and the treatment of Christianity in our current public realm and by our current government entities.
I will be interested to see if I can get any follow-up on this case.