A cop was awarded a $75,000 settlement by the city of Louisville, Kentucky after he was suspended for attending a prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic.
Last October, officer Matthew Schrenger filed a complaint against Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Erika Shields and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer after he was suspended for praying outside of a closed abortion clinic last February while off duty.
Schrenger and his father were attending a prayer vigil under the “40 Days for Life” campaign, where a prayer vigil was held outside EMW Women’s Surgical Center.
Last Thursday, Thomas More Society, the conservative legal nonprofit who represented Schrenger, confirmed that a settlement had been reached.
Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Matt Heffron called Schrenger’s punishment hypocritical because other Louisville police officers attending political marches or demonstrations were never disciplined.
“The unfair discipline revealed undeniably content-based discrimination against Officer Schrenger’s personal pro-life views and violated his First Amendment rights,” Heffron said in a statement.
“He was treated very differently than other officers who had undeniably engaged in true political protest and activism while participating in LGBT and Black Lives Matter demonstrations,” Heffron noted. “He was treated very differently than other officers who had undeniably engaged in true political protest and activism while participating in LGBT and Black Lives Matter demonstrations.”
According to The Christian Post, Thomas More Society asserted that Schrenger was publicly scrutinized after a Twitter account run by “abortion promoters” tied to the clinic posted photos of him at the event. This led the police department to accuse the 13-year veteran police officer of “protesting” at the facility, causing him to be suspended for over four months with pay, stripped of his police authority and placed under investigation.
Schrenger, however, shot down the accusation that he was protesting. He also maintained that the demonstration was peaceful and that he prayed while the clinic was closed.
In response to his suspension, the officer filed the lawsuit against Shields Fischer in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division.
“The Defendants subjected the Plaintiff to suspension and related mistreatment, because the Plaintiff, while off duty, engaged in quiet prayer on a public sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic,” the lawsuit states.
“The Plaintiff’s right to speak freely and honestly is fully protected even if the Defendants disapprove of the Plaintiff’s pro-life views. The central role of the First Amendment is to protect the right of individuals to speak of their beliefs and views, particularly when the government disapproves.”
Additionally, the clinic staff claimed to local media outlet WDRB that Schrenger’s presence intimidated staff members and patients since he attended the event in uniform and was armed. According to surveillance footage, Schrenger arrived in a police cruiser and, at one point, held up a sign that said, “pray to end abortion.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Aijohn784
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.