A Kentucky police officer will return to work after the Louisville Metro Police Department confirmed that it will not formally discipline him for quietly praying the rosary in front of a Louisville abortion clinic last winter while off-duty.
On February 20, 2021, before dawn on a Saturday morning, the officer quietly had prayed alone with his father for less than an hour in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center.
The officer’s name has not been publicly revealed.
Shortly after starting his regular patrol duty later that morning, the officer was ordered to return to his division’s office, where he was placed on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation. The decorated 13-year veteran, with no prior disciplinary violations and a wife and four young children to support, had remained on indefinite leave.
“We are happy for the officer that the Louisville Police Department finally did the right thing and put a good policeman back on the streets,” said Thomas More Society attorney Matt Heffron. “But it is astounding to those of us defending him – shocking actually – that the police department would treat a hardworking, loyal officer this way. They left him twisting in the wind for four months because of off-duty prayer.”
LMPD sent the officer notices of potential violations of LMPD’s Standard Operating Procedures and a Kentucky statute.
“None of the officer’s off-duty prayer was covered by the LMPD allegations, and any formal punishment, under these circumstances, would violate his First Amendment rights,” Heffron said.
In March, the Thomas More Society, working with Louisville attorney Blaine Blood, sent to LMPD a detailed analysis of applicable provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, the LMPD Standard Operating Procedures and the First Amendment, requesting that the matter be resolved quickly and that the officer be allowed to return to work.
The attorneys also sent an open-records request to LMPD and confirmed that the department has not taken disciplinary action against on-duty, uniformed officers who marched with Black Lives Matter protestors and in LBGT parades.
“The facts have been undisputed from the start – the whole event was captured on the abortion clinic’s security video,” said Heffron. “It showed two men, nondescriptly dressed, walking quietly back and forth as they said the rosary. The abortion clinic was closed and the street in front of it was practically deserted.”
“It was quickly clear to our lawyers, LMPD did not have a foot to stand on,” said Heffron. “It’s too bad it took LMPD four months to figure it out.”