CNS – An LAPD sergeant says in a lawsuit filed against the city and the Los Angeles Police Department that the department engaged in religious discrimination by disciplining him for off-duty remarks made about homosexual acts. In a fall 2006 eulogy delivered at a fellow officer’s funeral, Sgt. Eric Holyfield, who also is a pastor, said homosexual acts were “sinful” and an “abomination” and would lead to condemnation in hell if one did not repent, according to a lawsuit he filed June 19 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the Los Angeles Times reported. After those comments, LAPD passed him up for promotions and pay raises in retaliation, Holyfield alleges in the suit, saying that he was discriminated against for his religion and that his 1st Amendment rights were violated, according to The Times.
Cmdr. Stuart Maislin, head of LAPD’s risk-management office, told The Times that the department’s ability to control an off-duty officer’s speech is a “very gray area.” But remarks by officers may raise red flags, particularly when bias is expressed against a group of people, Maislin said. Holyfield made the remarks in September 2006 at the Whittier funeral of Officer Nathaniel Warthon Jr., whose family asked the sergeant to deliver a short sermon, The Times reported. Holyfield identified himself as a sergeant and as the fallen officer’s supervisor, according to the suit, but was clad in black clergy attire rather than his uniform.
At the funeral was Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, commanding officer of operations in the South Bureau. Beck, who is named as a defendant, filed a formal complaint against Holyfield after the funeral, The Times reported. The suit alleges that Beck’s actions were based on “religious biases” and says that as a result of the complaint, Holyfield was removed from his position in community relations, moved back to patrol and passed up for a number of promotions.