Louisville officer sues city after allegedly being suspended over off-duty prayer at abortion clinic

A Louisville, Kentucky, police officer is suing the town’s mayor, police chief, and police department for persecuting him over his off-duty prayer at an abortion clinic.

On February 20, 2021, at approximately 6 a.m., Officer Schrenger of the Louisville Metro Police Department joined his father for private prayer on a public sidewalk. Schrenger was not on duty at the time. The sidewalk was located outside an abortion facility, the EMW Women’s Surgical Center. That same day, Schrenger was locked out from his work computers, relieved of his police vehicle, and removed from the patrol schedule. Schrenger was suspended and he was stripped of his police powers, pending an investigation of his off-duty prayer.

“A quiet, off-duty prayer, on a public sidewalk, resulted in Officer Matt Schrenger being immediately suspended for over four months, stripped of his police powers, and placed under investigation,” explained Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Matt Heffron.

“No one should be treated the way the Louisville police chief and city government treated one of their finest, but it’s particularly awful because they punished him for praying, of all things…and while off duty, no less.” “Officer Matt Schrenger’s real ‘sin’ in the eyes of certain city hierarchy was that his quiet prayer was for the end of abortion,” Heffron said.

“Certain members of the city government publicly made it known they would not tolerate his opinion, and the police chief either agreed or perhaps just followed their lead. They thought they could get away with abusing a good officer with a four-month suspension without any reasonable basis. Now the city government will face the consequences of their actions, which are illegal under the Civil Rights Act and under the Constitution.”

The federal lawsuit was filed October 4, 2021, by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of Matthew Schrenger. The lawsuit names Police Chief Erika Shields, the Louisville Metro Police Department, Mayor Greg Fischer, and the City of Louisville, Kentucky. The complaint details their violations of the Free Exercise Clause and Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as Amended, and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

Schenger’s police powers were not restored until June 29, 2021. “It is astounding to those of us defending him – shocking actually –  that the police department would treat a loyal, hard-working officer this way,” said Heffron. 

“It’s particularly interesting that while Officer Schrenger did not engage in any political protest on duty and did not display his uniform, he was treated very differently than other similarly situated Louisville Metro Police Department officers who had undeniably engaged in true political protest and activism,” recounted Heffron.

He related how within a relatively close-time proximity to Schrenger’s early morning, off-duty prayer, other Louisville police officers, in uniform, and apparently while on-duty, publicly marched in an LGBT parade and participated in Black Lives Matter protests. Open-records requests revealed that these other officers suffered no suspension or discipline and apparently engaged in these political activities at the encouragement of the Louisville Metro Police Department (Thomas More Society).




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