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Louisville to pay $75,000 to officer suspended for off-duty prayer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – The city of Louisville settled a lawsuit out of court on Thursday (Jan. 27) after Kentucky police officer Matt Schrenger sued the city and the police department for violating his constitutional and civil rights. He will receive $75,000 from the city.

Schrenger, a 13-year Louisville police veteran, was suspended with pay for four months, stripped of his police powers and placed under investigation after praying with his father outside EMW Women’s Surgical Center – one of Kentucky’s two licensed abortion providers – while off duty on Feb. 20, 2021.

According to Schrenger’s complaint, filed in Western District Court on Oct. 4, 2021, the off-duty prayer occurred before the clinic was open, around 6 a.m. He was locked out from his computer, removed from the patrol schedule and suspended that same morning.

“The City’s quick offer of $75,000 shows the City knows it committed a significant and inexcusable violation of a loyal officer’s constitutional rights,” said Matt Heffron, senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that represented Schrenger, in a press release on Thursday.

The release notes that Schrenger’s private prayer “drew widely publicized and politicized scrutiny” after a Twitter account run by clinic escorts affiliated with EMW posted photos of Schrenger outside the abortion clinic.

“The treatment of Officer Schrenger was particularly galling considering other Louisville police officers previously had marched, while on duty and in uniform, in political protests that apparently were approved by the police department,” Heffron said.

The release added that an open records request revealed that the officers in question were not disciplined or suspended.

“The unfair discipline revealed undeniably content-based discrimination against Officer Schrenger’s personal pro-life views and violated his First Amendment rights,” Heffron said. “He did not engage in any political protest on duty – he prayed quietly. … He was treated very differently than other officers who had undeniably engaged in true political protest and activism while participating in LGBT and Black Lives Matter demonstrations.”

The 2021 lawsuit also named Mayor Greg Fischer and Police Chief Erika Shields as defendants.

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  • Tessa Redmond/Kentucky Today