Emails detail officer's religious objection to marching in SC Pr - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Emails detail officer's religious objection to marching in SC Pride Parade

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Emails between a Columbia Police officer and Interim Chief Ruben Santiago go deeper into the discussion about the officer's religious objections to marching in the South Carolina Pride Parade.

WIS gained access to the emails following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The first email from Santiago, dated Sept. 24, responds to the officer's request to be given a religious exemption from the parade. Santiago says he understands the officer's points, but he stands by his decision.

"They aren't expected to do anything but represent our Department," says Santiago. "This department will stand for Equality(sic) and justice for all when they put this uniform on."

Santiago goes on to say he believes any officers who would not represent the department in the parade would send a message that police officers aren't in favor of equality for everyone.

"This is a city approved event and we will support it," writes Santiago. "We as supervisors need to set the example, we cannot pick and choose when it comes to Public(sic) trust. I expect our leaders to lead the way."

The officer responds to Santiago the next day, reaffirming that marching in the parade went against his beliefs.

"I am not being asked to walk in a parade for equality, I am being told to ride in a parade to show support for something that goes against my religious beliefs," writes the officer.

The officer says he feels like he's being put into a position where he's being asked to take a religious stance that could have "negative consequences" in regard to his job.

"I feel it would be much simpler if the department asks for volunteers," writes the officer, sharing examples of how the police merely asked for volunteers for the Veterans and Hispanic parades.

Santiago responds to the officer one last time on Sept. 26, sharing several examples of Supreme Court cases where law enforcement officers were not granted religious exemptions to refuse orders.

"I have given the directive and I expect that it will be followed otherwise disciplinary action will be immediately taken," writes Santiago. "Your duty is of representation and not necessarily of support."

The officer responds again just hours later.

"Sir thank you for your consideration in this matter," writes the officer. "I will be there as directed."

However, on Sept. 28, Santiago reversed course and alerted everyone to the change.

"I have been directed to advise anyone that was assigned to represent the police department and city of columbia(sic) in the SC Pride Parade does not have to. Please make sure everyone assigned knows this," writes Santiago.

We learned weeks ago that City Manager Teresa Wilson stepped in after receiving an email from one of the officers.

Wilson said the officers were not required to attend because they had enough volunteers and the order was changed.

Santiago said the officers would likely not be reprimanded for not following protocol. He said he would use the incident as an opportunity for a lesson in proper etiquette.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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