Mom: Port Allen officer racially profiled my son in traffic stop; police chief vigorously denies claim _lowres (copy)

Port Allen Police Chief Esdron Brown speaks at a 2014 breakfast meeting.

The driving force motivating the founding of our nation was based largely on the belief in the freedom of religion. Our nation's founding fathers brought to the new world a deeply rooted culture of individualism and personal responsibility. The idea was that God gave us all free will, and that the power to chose included who and how we worship. At the time our founding fathers left England, British law outlawed non-Anglican Protestants from worshipping freely.

"Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion," wrote John Adams.

"Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum, " wrote Samuel Adams.

"Our country is an asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every nation and religion. If you aren't free to think your own thoughts and believe your own beliefs, you aren't free, " wrote James Madison.

Madison would have likely been horrified to hear what allegedly happened to two former Port Allen police officers recently. They filed separate federal lawsuits claiming Police Chief Esdron Brown consistently forced his religion on his officers.

Robert Cannon Jr., who resigned from the city's department in April, claims Brown often used God's will as reasoning for unjust promotions. Cannon's suit also alleges the chief's repeated mention of religion and religious-focused meetings created a hostile work environment.

The lawsuit also asserts that Brown improperly promoted an officer to a new rank despite not meeting the service requirements because "God told him to." When Cannon asked Brown about the decision, the chief said, "God said promote him anyway, so I did," the lawsuit alleges.

The second officer filing suit, Patrick Marshall, claims Brown held meetings where "all police officers in attendance were required to pray." Marshall's lawsuit alleges in 2016 when Cannon spoke with Brown about his child's illness, Brown blamed Cannon and his lack of faith.

"You're not walking in God's perfect purpose like I am and ... it's your fault and (your) actions that is causing this, you need to submit to [God's] authority," the lawsuit claims Brown said.

Marshall alleges the chief tried to force him to attend mandatory religious counseling meetings, and when the officer refused, Brown retaliated with disciplinary actions that included threats of suspension or job termination. Marshall, who filed his lawsuit in June, resigned from the city's police force in November 2017.

When I asked Brown by phone if he would respond to the allegations in the two lawsuits he told me, "I wish I could, I wish I could comment on all those lies but I can't." "So you're saying they're lies? You can tell me that?," I asked Brown. "No, they say don't say nothing. No comment," Brown responded.

Brown owes it to the city he serves to respond to the lawsuits' allegations. His silence speaks volumes. If he did force his officers to attend prayer meetings and base his personnel decisions on how they responded to his religion, he should be fired immediately.

Port Allen Mayor Richard Lee told me he had no comment on the lawsuits. I told him I assume Brown denies the charges. Otherwise, as mayor, he would have removed Brown as chief. To that Lee said, "Yes sir." "He did deny the allegations?," I asked again. "Yes, sir" Lee responded.

Government-based religious persecution is prevalent in Muslim run countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. It's also common in Communist China. The worst offender is North Korea, where, according to Open Doors USA, a Christian-based organization, 50,000 North Korean Christians are in prison labor camps for their beliefs. The group reports one in every 12 Christians globally currently lives in an area where Christianity is illegal, forbidden, or even punishable by death.

Such persecution is almost nonexistent from Christians these days, which makes the Port Allen case so unusual — but none the more tolerable.

Email Dan Fagan at faganshow@gmail.com. Twitter: @DanFaganShow.