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.”
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.”
This incident occurred in 2013