A Tulsa Police captain has filed a federal lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated after he was reassigned and placed under investigation for refusing to order officers to attend voluntary social event at a mosque. His attorney believes it's a case of political correctness.
Capt. Paul Fields claims he was ordered to assign police officers to attend a law enforcement appreciation day at the Islamic Society of Tulsa. Fields refused that order because he said it violated his religious beliefs.
"When you become a police officer you don't give up any of your Constitutional rights," said Scott Wood, a Tulsa attorney representing Fields.
The lawsuit named Deputy Chief Daryl Webster as the lone defendant - accusing him of retaliating against Fields for exercising his First Amendment rights. Fields is asking for one dollar in nominal damages, along with attorneys fees.
The police department could not comment on the lawsuit.
However, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan told FOX23-TV the mosque event was about community relations - not religion.
"I would never assign a police officer to participate in a religious service," he said. "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."
Fields has been on the police force for 16 years and has at least six commendations. Wood says Fields has had a "stellar career" without any disciplinary actions.
In essence, Wood said Field was retaliated against for not voluntarily attending a mosque. It's a case of political correctness, he said.
"That's definitely what it is," Wood said. "But political correctness has nothing to do with the First Amendment."
The events leading to the lawsuit started last week when members of the Tulsa Police Dept. were invited to attend a "Law Enforcement Appreciation Day" at the Islamic Center of Tulsa.
It was advertised as a social gathering featuring food, an opportunity to watch a Muslim prayer service, and an invitation to join lectures on beliefs, human rights and women.
According to Wood, no one responded to the invitations and no one volunteered. The following day, Fields received a directive ordering him to find officers to attend.
"This is a program put on by the mosque for the officers, not the officers for the mosque," Wood said. "He did not believe it was police-related or related to his duties and he was not going to do something that conflicted with his religious beliefs."
Wood said to their knowledge Tulsa police officers have never been ordered to attend non-police related events at synagogues or Christian houses of worship.
The controversy has sparked national interest among Muslims. Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on America-Islamic Relations said he was following the incident and said it's an example of "anti-Muslim bigotry."
"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.
But Scott emphatically denied CAIR's accusations.
"Captain Fields would lay down his life for anyone in that mosque if the need arose regardless of their color, creed or their background," Wood said. "The purported reason for this law enforcement appreciation day was because of the department's performance in catching someone who had made threats against the mosque. You can't have it both ways. 'You did a great job protecting us, but you're a bigot?'"