United States: A South Carolina Druid couple have filed a complaint against a police officer who used a traffic stop as an excuse to try and convert them to Christianity.
Accompanying Cpl. Gilbert Lozada in his vehicle was reserve officer Tony Stewart, an unpaid volunteer, according to police spokesman Lt. Cris Varner.
Debra Gainey said during the traffic stop, Stewart began talking with her about his religion and told her she should come to Bible class.
In her letter complaining of a civil rights violation to Reynolds dated Wednesday, she said,Officer Stewart overstepped his bounds in witnessing during a traffic stop.
She also wrote in her complaint that he followed up by sending a letter to their home, whichfurther violated our rights and invaded our privacy.
The officer drew attention to a bumper sticker on the couple's car which read
It's a druid thing, and investigators are trying to determine whether the presence of that sticker caused the officer to stop the car, rather than any suspicion that an offence had taken place. According to Debra Gainey, one of the couple:
The interesting part of this incident happened at the back of our car. Officer Stewart asked us if we had put the bumper stickers on or if the car had come that way. I of course told the truth and said I had put them on. The officer wanted to know what they meant so I explained that I was an ordained minister of the Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church. The conversation continued and then Officer Stewart asked me if my church supported me? I asked him to explain what he meant by support and he clarified it as meaning ‘spiritually fulfilling’. He then begins witnessing to me and my husband... At the police station he continued to witness to me...
...Officer Stewart never mentions a reason for being pulled over, such as weaving, speeding, wrong plates or anything like that. He does mention the bumper stickers.
A full account of the incident is given on the Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church web site, including the fill text of Officer Stewart's letter, where he admits he is only works for the Police because of the witnessing opportunities it provides.
Two claim reserve officer violated their rights - The Greenville News, 23rd June 2005; How a Greer, SC Police Officer witnessed for the Baptists - Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church web site, not dated.