Milwaukee Sheriff Can’t Coerce Deputies, Says AU

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged a federal appeals court to rule against a Wisconsin sheriff who required deputies to listen to evangelical Christian proselytizing.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed May 27 with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, AU asserted that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke violated the Constitution when he required deputies to attend presentations by the Fellowship of Christian Centurions (FCC).

The FCC is an organization formed by members of an evangelical church in Brookfield, Wisc. FCC representatives spoke at 16 mandatory roll call events where they proselytized attendees and passed out materials reflecting their religious views.

The sessions drew complaints from a Roman Catholic deputy and a Muslim deputy.

“Government officials can’t impose their religious beliefs on employees,” said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. “Sheriff Clarke’s job is to uphold the law and the Constitution, not to undermine it.”

Americans United’s brief in the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs Association v. Clarke case states that the Supreme Court and other federal courts have repeatedly held that government officials may not coerce others to partake in religious activities.

The brief asserts: “This anti-coercion principle forbids government officials not only from requiring their subordinates to participate in religious activities such as prayer or Bible-reading, but also from requiring them to attend events at which prayers are said or proselytizing speeches are made.”