What Does Jesus Have to Do With Moving Violations?

The relationship between America and religion has been quite interesting to watch over the country’s relatively short history. After all, some could say the country was founded by the Pilgrims: those seeking freedom from religious intolerance. Of course, the Lenape, the Lakota and the Navajo, among many others, were here first. But that’s a different article.

Founded on the ability of its citizens to practice religion peacefully – no matter what religion that happened to be – there’s a saying we all know that’s supposed to inform government decisions: the separation of church and state. In other words, while those who lead are free to believe in whatever they’d like, they can’t use their power to force people to believe similarly.

Which brings us to an interesting case that’s sprouted up in Indiana.

Does Jesus write traffic tickets?

In August, Ellen Bogan was pulled over in Union County for an alleged traffic violation.

Everything seemed to be perfectly normal. In fact, some could argue it worked out even better than normal for Bogan, who received a warning instead of a ticket.

But just before Bogan thought the traffic stop was winding down, Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton decided to ask her a series of questions: Does she go to church? Does she believe in Jesus Christ? Does she realize Jesus died for her sins?

“It’s completely out of line and it just – it took me aback,” Bogan recently said. After those questions were asked, Hamilton allegedly took out a religious pamphlet from his cruiser before presenting it to her and letting her go on her way.

Partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union, Bogan filed a lawsuit against Hamilton in a federal court in September. It remains to be seen how that case will unfold, and in the meantime, the police department says it’s taken some sort of disciplinary measures. But that statement lacked specifics.

What’s going on here, anyway?

At the very basic level, Hamilton should be ashamed of himself for his actions after pulling Bogan over.

Even though he might have been well-intentioned, the fact is that as an officer in uniform, he is a representative of the government. More specifically: a government that prides itself on keeping church and state affairs separate from one another.

Because of what they represent, most law-abiding Americans are going to be pretty scared during even the most routine of interactions with police officers. After all, state troopers are physical manifestations of law enforcement. We are taught from an early age to respect and/or fear them, lest there be consequences.

And that respect usually entails listening to what they have to say and keeping quiet in order to not dig yourself into an even deeper hole.

Bogan did what most smart Americans would do: behaved cordially and kept quiet. But the experience to her, a non churchgoer, was so odd that she couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. And I guess that’s understandable given today’s political climate.

But at the end of the day…

While Hamilton was clearly out of line here – after all, officers aren’t allowed to detain you for longer than they need to if you’re not going to be arrested for a crime – let’s keep in mind that his actions, no matter how you want to phrase them, aren’t grievous.

We of course can’t just hop into Hamilton’s mind and understand exactly what was going through it at a certain point, but it appears as though his offense is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Just consider the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City officer accused of sexually assaulting women he pulled over.

Police officers are humans, too. Even the calmest, coolest and most collected officer will from time to time remember that he or she is more than a badge and a gun. That officer will show attributes that make him or her, well, human.

So is this story so outrageous because Hamilton was trying to convert a constituent to his religion? Would it be a nonstory if he asked Bogan whether he’d buy Girl Scout cookies that his daughter was trying to sell? Or would that be going over the line, too?

I have to admit: I do expect things to be different in the private sector. I’ve been accosted about my contribution to global warming while shopping at a local business. I didn’t really expect it, but that’s Free Speech at work. Perhaps the better example would be another public servant, such as a teacher. Should teachers be able to proselytize to their captive audience? Of course not; some of the teachers I respected the most over the years were the ones who were obviously opinionated but didn’t let their feelings enter into their work “personas.”

The bottom line here is that, as a country, we are too easily offended by just about everything. There was even a considerable uproar over a recent Jeopardy! category called “What Women Want.” While the category might have been poorly conceived, particularly in today’s perpetually offended society, take a step back and realize that the family-oriented quiz show likely wasn’t trying to make some grandiose political commentary on a touchy subject.

The easier answer? The producers made a mistake.

While Hamilton was certainly in the wrong in this particular scenario, is it really that big of a deal? Did anyone else come forward to say that the trooper had done the same thing to them? Would people care if an atheist asked a religious constituent whether he or she believed in no god?

We will never live in a perfect society. But with all the other craziness going on across the globe, it might be time for America to take a deep breath and pick bigger battles.

Image Credit: Keoni Cabral (via Flickr)

“We all know the story of…”

I cringe when I hear those words at church.

?Ǭ†Usually, they are spoken by a Gospel Doctrine teacher when introducing a topic .?Ǭ† I’m sure on any given Sunday, those words are mentioned a couple dozen times in any average ward.

The reason why I cringe is mostly because of my dear wife.?Ǭ† She joined the church after her 18th birthday.?Ǭ† She had very little exposure to the gospel before that.?Ǭ† Her knowlege of things taught in primary could probably fit in a large thimble (ok, well, she?Ǭ†probably knows more than she lets on, but it’s nowhere near what us BIC’ers have encountered).?Ǭ† Usually after a lesson in which those words are mentioned, she asks me about the story that the teacher was referring to.?Ǭ† I do my best to explain it.?Ǭ† She usually mentiones something like “well, knowing that would have helped to make sense of the lesson”.

?Ǭ†Another variant is the phrase “We all know…”.?Ǭ† This one is even worse.?Ǭ† It’s not just a story, but usually some cultural church practice or perhaps some meaty chunk of doctrine.?Ǭ† The instructor usually glosses over the important parts and dives right into his / her analysis, leaving my poor wife in the dust.

?Ǭ†I’ve noticed it’s lessons or discussions / talks like this that make church services so unplesant for my wife.?Ǭ† After a consecutive string of Sunday’s like this, she usually?Ǭ†wants?Ǭ†a break and we all take a rest from going to church.

I guess what really baffles me is the fact that we are suppose to be a missionary minded church.?Ǭ† We are suppose to be ‘inviting others to Christ’, but when they get here, we treat them as if they’ve been here all along and end up frustraing the heck out of them.

Staying away because of others.

The other day, I visited someone who is LDS but who no longer attends church. She said it is because of the hypocrisy she saw with the local leaders where she grew up. According to her, the leaders were inconsistent with how they gave out church discipline. For example, a bishop would disfellowship one person for fornication, yet put someone else on informal probation for fornication. She saw this as hypocrisy and as a result, she no longer comes to church.

Two things I don’t understand: why are people still staying away from church because of so-called hypocrisy, and why does someone allow the actions of others affect their own spiritual life?

People have been preaching for years that the people in the church are imperfect and are human. Despite all this preaching, people still expect members to be perfect and use their imperfections as excuses to stop coming to church.

Likewise, why would someone let the actions of another dictate whether they come to worship, partake of the sacrament, serve in the church, share their testimonies with others and so on?

Glenn Beck’s Conversion Story

Thanks to a post by Mike Peterson, I came across this cool conversion story from CNN host, Glenn Beck.