State trooper says he was fired after refusing assignment for religious reasons

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

An Indiana state trooper who refused an assignment for religious reasons is
claiming he was fired by the state because of his religious objections.

Represented by the Rutherford Institute, Ben Endres, a state trooper for
eight years, has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity

According to Endres’ complaint, he was assigned to work a one-year stint as a
plainclothes officer for the state’s Gaming Commission at the Blue Chip Casino
on Lake Michigan. Indiana law allows the commission to use troopers to provide
security on the state’s casino boats.

In late April, Endres sent a letter to his supervisors stating that if he
worked at the casino it would convey a message that he condoned the casino’s
activities, specifically gambling and drinking. Endres said he had “personal
religious convictions against gambling” and cited his church’s “strong position
against it.” He concluded his letter by stating that he would perform “virtually
any job to avoid violating” his religious beliefs.

Endres’ pastor and the Rutherford Institute also wrote letters to Melvin J.
Carraway, the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, urging an
accommodation for the trooper.

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said Carraway made “no
effort to accommodate Endres” before firing him.

Lt. Steve Hillman, director of the Indiana State Police public information
office, said that Carraway did meet with Endres to “see if reasonable
accommodation could be reached.”

Hillman said that Endres informed Carraway that he would not work at the
casino. Endres was then charged with insubordination and failure to comply with
a written order, and fired sometime in early April, Hillman said.

Accommodations have been made for officers for religious holidays and when
such exceptions “don’t affect public safety,” Hillman said.

“Indiana State Police officers do not have the luxury of deciding which laws
they want to enforce,” he said. “When you become a police officer, you are
immediately responsible for impartially enforcing all Indiana laws.”

As an example, Hillman said, African-American police must provide security at
Ku Klux Klan rallies.

“This is not a situation centering on Endres’ religious beliefs,” Hillman
said. “It has to do with his failure to comply with a written order.”

Whitehead said that if Endres did not receive a favorable ruling from the
EEOC, a lawsuit charging the state police violated Endres’ religious liberties
would be filed.

“It’s amazing that in this day and age a person can still be harassed,
intimidated and fired for refusing to violate their sincerely held religious
beliefs,” Whitehead said. “Federal and state law clearly holds that this is not