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Police officers who are accused of shutting down a woman’s prayer in her own home, and joking about it, have defended their actions to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, saying it did not “burden” her constitutional rights.

But that defense claim is gaining little ground with advocates for Mary Anne Sause, a Louisberg, Kansas, resident who has brought the charges against the officers.

WND reported in October when a lower court rejected Sause’s claim and the case moved up to the appeals court.

The case is being handled now by lawyers with First Liberty Institute after Mary Anne Sause, a retired Catholic nurse on disability, handled the initial claim on her own.

The result was that Judge Julie Robinson granted a motion from the city to dismiss the case and told the women she wasn’t allowed to amend her complaint.

First Liberty, however, decided to challenge the recent ruling based on the First Amendment issues at stake.

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Now, in the appeals court, the woman’s lawyers have rejected the officers’ defense.

In their brief, they challenge the government’s claim “the First Amendment only ‘protects one’s ability to choose his or her religion.'”

“According to the city of Louisburg, ‘the act of stopping [Ms. Sause’s] prayer did not burden her free exercise of religion’ because only conduct that forces her to change her religious practices or causes her to stop praying altogether would violate the Constitution,” her attorneys said.

But they explain the Free Exercise clause in the First Amendment “extends beyond the right to choose one’s own religion and includes the right to pray in the privacy of one’s own home, which is a fundamental right clearly protected by the First Amendment.”

They say the officers’ had no legitimate law-enforcement justification for the order, and so it “‘burdens’ her ability to freely exercise her religion in her own home.”

“Prayer is essential to Ms. Sause’s faith and everyday life,” Stephanie Taub, associate counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a prepared statement. “The government’s argument that the First Amendment only allows an individual to choose a religion, but not to fully exercise that faith, is a blatant misstatement of the law.”

The organization said the woman was home late at night when police demanded to come into her apartment.

They explained, “She alleges that they harassed her, saying that the Constitution is ‘just a piece of paper’ that ‘doesn’t work here’ and telling her to prepare to go to jail. 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 Free Exercise Clause protects the right to do exactly that – freely exercise one’s faith,” Bradley G. Hubbard, litigation associate at Gibson Dunn, said. “It is well established that the First Amendment protects the right to pray in one’s own home. We urge the court of appeals for the 10th Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision and enable Ms. Sause to have a meaningful day in court as she fights to vindicate her religious liberty rights.”

“A plaintiff need only show that the government ‘substantially burdened … [a] sincerely held religious belief,'” the argument for the woman states.

“As courts repeatedly have made clear ‘the Free Exercise Clause not only forbids regulation of religious beliefs as such but also protects religiously motivated expression.’ … The court should resoundingly decline the officers’ invitation up upend decades of established First Amendment jurisprudence by making only the most flagrant religious liberty violatios the sine qua non of the substantial-burden analysis.”

The confrontation happened on the night of Nov. 22, 2013, when two officers approached her door and demanded that she open it.

She explained that they did not identify themselves and she could not see them through an inoperable peephole, so she didn’t open the door.

“As a survivor of rape, Sause never opens her door to anyone she can’t identify,” First Liberty said.

The officers left, but they came back and again demanded to be allowed in.

“When Sause came to the door, the officers asked why she didn’t answer the door the first time. Ms. Sause saw a pocket Constitution, given to her by her congressman, lying on a nearby table and showed it to the officers, who still had not explained the reason for their appearance. One officer laughed and said, ‘That’s just a piece of paper’ that ‘doesn’t work here.'”

Once inside, they “harassed” her, she said, at one point telling her to get ready to go to jail.

“When Sause asked why, he said, ‘I don’t know yet,'” First Liberty reported.

She was frightened and asked permission to pray, and one officer agreed. The other then came back into the room and ordered her to “stop praying,” the complaint explains.

They then “flipped through the codebook to see how they could charge her,” finally choosing “interference” and “disorderly conduct.”

At the end of their visit, they finally explained they were there because someone thought her radio was too loud.

The case is against Louisburg, its police department, Chief Timothy Bauer and officers Jason Lindsey and Brent Ball and others, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality” chronicles how America has arrived at the point of being a de facto police state, and what led to an out-of-control government that increasingly ignores the Constitution. Order today!

 

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