Police Chief Cops Out on Freedom
By Tony Perkins
At the Salt Lake Police Department, the only thing officers are handcuffing is freedom. Like most Americans, Eric Moutsos never dreamed that his faith would cost him his job. But that’s exactly what happened last summer after the long-time policeman asked for a different post at the city’s gay pride event.
He was asked, along with other members of the team, to lead the motorcycle brigade at the very front of the parade. Moutsos said he “felt uncomfortable doing what he considered celebratory circles with other motorcycles leading the parade because of his religious views” and asked to be placed somewhere else at the event. “It is unquestionably my duty as a police officer to protect everyone’s right to hold a parade or other event, but is it also my duty to celebrate everyone’s parade?” For that particular assignment, he explained, “It looks like we and I are in support of this parade. I said I would feel the same way if this was an abortion parade. I would feel the same way if it was a marijuana parade.”
Not once did he refuse to work the parade — yet in the middle of working out a compromise with his boss, he was suspended. The move absolutely blind-sided him. Shocked, the dad of four went home and told his family what happened. Almost immediately, the story broke that an unidentified member of the Salt Lake Police Department had been put on a leave of absence for “discrimination.”
In typical P.C. fashion, Chief Chris Burbank spun the controversy as a story of prejudice and bias. “It has nothing to do with religious freedom — that has to do with the hatred of those individuals and what the parade stands for, which is about unity and coming together,” he told local reporters. Obviously, the chief is too busy policing people’s views to protect them. After six months of absolute turmoil, Moutsos decided to come forward and reveal his identity. As a Mormon — whose church recently threw its support behind the very ordinances that make this kind of persecution possible — Eric wants to turn his oppression into an opportunity.
In an interview with Deseret News, Moutsos said his story should be a warning to every American who thinks same-sex “marriage” and homosexuality won’t affect them. “We can 100 percent disagree and still 100 percent love. I hate that we’re labeled in this way that is so divisive.” Although Moutsos found a job with another police agency, he thinks his most important work is protecting religious liberty. He hasn’t been asked to testify to lawmakers, but he’d like to.
Like Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, Eric was told to either check his beliefs at the door or get out of public service. If the Mormon Church thinks that throwing its weight behind sexual orientation-gender identity measures like Houston’s will shield people like him, they’re sorely mistaken. How do you protect anyone’s freedom of belief if you give the government another weapon to punish it? All this does is force Christians underground — or worse, into a religious ghetto cut off from the rest of society.
First of all, that’s not what we’re called to do in the church. And secondly, it’s not what our freedoms allow. It’s tough to get the American people to agree on anything — but they agree on that. In FRC’s survey released this week by WPA Opinion, 81% of the country (which as unanimous as it gets in the polling community) agreed that the government should leave people alone to live and work according to their beliefs. If anyone’s ready to lead that parade, we are!
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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