The Tulsa Police Deptartment is investigating a captain who refused an order to assign officers to attend an upcoming Islamic event because he said it would violate his religious beliefs.
Capt. Paul Fields was reassigned after he refused to order officers under his command to attend the Islamic Center of Tulsa’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a spokesman for the department said.
“It is my opinion and that of my legal counsel that forcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my Civil Rights,” Fields wrote in an internal police department memo obtained by Fox News.
“I have no problem with officers attending on a voluntary basis; however, I take exception to requiring officers to attend this event,” Fields wrote in an e-mail to his superior officer obtained by Fox News. “I believe this directive to be an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with my personal religious convictions.”
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan told FOX23-TV the event was about community relations, not religion.
“This was not religious,” he said. “I would never assign a police officer to participate in religious service,” he told the TV station. “This is about a group who bonded together because of their religion. We are not going there because they are Islamic. We are going there because they are Tulsa citizens.”
However, according to a promotional flyer, the Islamic event included not just food and entertainment, but “presentations” on “beliefs, human rights, and women.” They would also be able to watch a Muslim prayer service and take a tour of the mosque.
“It’s up to you,” the flyer stated.
Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the incident an example of “anti-Muslim bigotry.”
“It’s a symptom of the unfortunately rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment we have in our society,” Hooper said. “It sends a message of marginalization that somehow Muslims aren’t part of American society.”
Hooper said he was satisfied with the way the police department handled the matter but said the incident signals a bigger issue.
“When somebody feels empowered to say ‘I’m not going to take part in a community outreach event at a mosque because I basically don’t like Muslims,’ it’s all part of that rise in Islamophobia in our society,” he said.
Gary Allison, a professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law, said the case poses a dilemma.
“It is true that individuals have their own religious beliefs and that they come to their workplace with their own religious beliefs,” Allison said. “The question is, how far can an employer go to require people to go against their religious beliefs for something to do the job that they are supposed to do?”