To Protect and To Serve

Inside the Issues with Alan Sears

Alan Sears, Esquire

ADF President, CEO, & General Counsel

March 24, 2009

Unfortunately, more and more of the stories we share with you tell of government officials ignoring or violating the Constitution in their actions against those who speak their faith in public places.

But it's also true that many officials across this country continue to recognize and respect those who thoughtfully, publicly share their beliefs.  And sometimes, these officials pay their own price for refusing to enforce a more politically-correct agenda.

Corporal Steven Armbruster, for example, of the Kutztown University Police Department in Philadelphia, has for nearly two years been reaping the consequences of his decision to respect the Constitution.  On April 18, 2007, he was one of several university police called in when 15 members of a local Christian group shared the gospel and addressed moral issues like abortion and homosexual behavior with some other students on campus.

Nearly 300 protestors from other campus clubs converged on the scene and began shouting their disagreement.  Alarmed at the disturbance, University President F. Javier Cevallos called in the school's police chief, William Mioskie, and urged him to get the Christians off campus.

One member of the group was promptly arrested, and then Armbruster heard Mioskie order his officers to "push" the other members off campus for "disorderly conduct."  To Armbruster, that meant either arresting or threatening to arrest the Christians, who – as best he could tell as an eyewitness – had done nothing "disorderly" to contribute to the uproar.

He stepped over to share that concern with his chief, along with his understanding and knowledge that any action taken against the Christians under the current circumstances would constitute a violation of their civil rights.  Armbruster was relieved of his duties and ordered to leave the scene, while other officers proceeded to arrest some of the Christians.

As it turned out, a local court dismissed all charges against the Christians.  Unfortunately, that same justice has so far eluded Armbruster himself.  Placed on administrative leave after the incident, he was later suspended without pay for five working days and warned that he'd be fired if he made any similar assertions in the future.  A disciplinary letter was placed in his administrative file and could easily block any future promotion.

"Campus police officers who understand and respect the constitutional rights of American citizens should be commended, not punished," said ADF-allied attorney Randall L. Wenger, chief counsel for the Harrisburg-based Independence Law Center, which on March 12 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Armbruster. "Corporal Armbruster honored his conscience as a Christian and his duty as a civil servant to protect – not violate – these citizens' free speech rights. He knew that he was being asked to punish the wrong party in the situation."

The complaint in this lawsuit, Armbruster v. Cavanaugh, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Please be in prayer for Corporal Armbruster and for the many other law enforcement officials, attorneys, and judges across the country who are trying to conscientiously protect the civil rights and constitutional liberties of all Americans, including Christians.  May God honor their efforts and bless their courage as they stand for justice in an increasingly partisan age.