Praying

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to overturn a 10th Circuit appeals-court ruling that upheld the actions of police officers who forced a woman to stop praying silently in her home.

The petition charges the Louisberg, Kansas, officers stopped Mary Anne Sause from praying not to further any legitimate law-enforcement interest, but “so they could harass her.”

“The 10th Circuit correctly ‘assumed’ this conduct ‘violated Sause’s rights under the First Amendment,'” the woman’s legal team explained. “Yet the 10th Circuit nevertheless granted qualified immunity to the officers, solely on the ground that their alleged conduct was so obviously unconstitutional that there is no prior case law involving similar facts.”

WND reported last summer Judges Tim Tymkovich, Carlos Lucero and Nancy Moritz of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver found that the police defendants in the constitutional-violations case were protected even though they violated Sause’s constitutional rights.

Sause sued after, she said, the officers came to her door, demanded entry, intimidated her, told her to stop praying and made fun of her.

The officers later said they were at her home on a noise complaint.

The woman claimed the officers said the Constitution is “just a piece of paper” that “doesn’t work here” and told her to prepare to go to jail.

The complaint states: “Terrified, Ms. Sause asked one of the officers if she could pray. After being told she could, she knelt in silent prayer, only to have another officer enter the room and order her to stop praying. Only at the end of the encounter did they tell her that they were there because of a minor noise complaint that her radio was too loud.”

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality” chronicles how America has arrived at the point of being a de facto police state and what led to an out-of-control government that increasingly ignores the Constitution. Order today!

The appeals judges noted Sause’s “complaint states a plausible claim.”

“We don’t necessarily disagree. Indeed, for purposes of resolving this appeal, we assume that the defendants violated Sause’s First Amendment rights. But even with the benefit of that assumption, the defendants are nevertheless entitled to qualified immunity,” the 10th Circuit found.

First Liberty said the majority opinion by the 10th Circuit panel “assumed that a First Amendment violation occurred, but stated that the police officers were shielded from liability based on the legal doctrine of qualified immunity.”

“The Tenth Circuit’s opinion assumed the police officers violated Ms. Sause’s constitutional rights when they mocked her, humiliated her, and ordered her to stop praying in her home,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty. “Police officers should have known that ordering a woman not to pray in her own home violates the First Amendment.”

Stephanie Taub, counsel for First Liberty, said the constitutional rights “of law abiding citizens like Ms. Sause should not be ignored, and she deserves her day in court.”

“This case is about protecting the religious liberties of a private citizen in one of the most sacred and protected places in legal doctrine: the home. We are hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize Ms. Sause’s case as one of the utmost importance and grant her petition.”

The incident took place Nov. 22, 2013, when the officers demanded entry to her home.

“Sause is a rape survivor, so she is careful to make sure that she can identify visitors before she opens the door. According to Sause, she did not open the door to the police officers because they did not identify themselves and she was not able to see them due to her broken peephole,” the legal team explained.

But the officers returned and demanded entry.

What followed was about an hour of harassment, the complaint stated.

“No American should be told that they cannot pray in their own home,” said Taub. “The right to pray in the privacy of one’s own home is clearly protected by the First Amendment.”

The case is against Louisburg, its police department, Chief Timothy Bauer, and officers Jason Lindsey and Brent Ball and others. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The filing asks, “Would a reasonable police officer have known that forcing a citizen to stop praying silently in her home – absent any legitimate justification whatsoever – violated the First Amendment?”

The complaint quotes the U.S. Supreme Court: “To ask that question is to answer it: ‘The principle that government may not …. suppress religious belief or practice is so well understood that few violations are recorded in our opinions.”

That, however, is “precisely” what Sause alleges.

“They told her that ‘the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ‘nothing, just a piece of paper’ that ‘doesn’t work here,’ and that ‘she was going to jail.’

“They ordered her to stop praying so they could harass her,” the petition states.

“The 10th Circuit nevertheless ruled that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity – because their allegd conduct was so egregiously unconstitutional that no court ‘has found a First Amendment violation based on a factual scenario even remotely resembling the one we encounter here.'”

The brief asks that the judgment be summarily reversed.

The petition states: “Tymkovich wrote separately to denounce the ‘reprehensible’ nature of the officers’ alleged conduct – ‘the officers here acted with extraordinary contempt of a law abiding citizen and they should be condemned’ – and to explain his view that the allegations ‘fit more neatly in the Fourth Amendment context.’ As he explained, ‘although the officers’ initial motives may have been legitimate, Ms. Sause’s complaint indicates that the situation quickly devolved.'”

The case argues, “Even without precedent involving similar egregious facts, the officers had clear notice that commanding a citizen to stap praying silently in her home – absent any justification – was unconstitutional.”

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality” chronicles how America has arrived at the point of being a de facto police state and what led to an out-of-control government that increasingly ignores the Constitution. Order today!

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