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Columbia, SC Police Officers Defy Orders to March in Gay Pride Parade Over Religious Beliefs: VIDEO

Yesterday, we reported that Columbia, South Carolina city officials had overridden an order from the police chief instructing two officers to march in the Gay Pride parade.

SantiagoThe AP reported:

Santiago had ordered a lieutenant and sergeant to join eight other officers in last Saturday's parade even though they cited religious beliefs in their opposition. On the day of the parade, City Manager Teresa Wilson and her assistant met with Santiago and reached an agreement to make participation in the parade voluntary since there were then enough officers to march.

The police chief is speaking out now, saying that it sets a very bad precedent.

"An officer cannot choose their assignments based on their religious beliefs. When you have a police department that really values strict discipline and adherence and obedience to directives, the Chief of Police is the person they look toward for that direction. Any department that expects to instill public trust, must demonstrate that by being visible to the public."

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott agrees:

"A chief or sheriff has to be able to make the decisions, a person that works underneath him are not going to respect them if they don't have the ability to make decisions, and I think that's a problem with the Columbia Police Department, not just now but for many many years/"

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP... - Columbia, South Carolina |

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  1. I must confess I do not see any point in forcing people to march in a Gay Pride parade who are not onboard with the values of gay equality and tolerance. More power to this police department for their support but these things have to be willing and spontaneous, if not then we are doing everyone a disservice.

    Posted by: Mundus | Oct 5, 2013 4:58:54 PM

  2. Why should sexuality be an issue in a parade?

    Posted by: JG | Oct 5, 2013 5:05:08 PM

  3. Why should sexuality be an issue in a parade?

    Posted by: JG | Oct 5, 2013 5:05:08 PM

  4. The two refusers... were from the COMMUNITY SERVICES DIVISION!!!

    Posted by: QJ201 | Oct 5, 2013 5:07:40 PM

  5. The two refusers... were from the COMMUNITY SERVICES DIVISION!!!

    Posted by: QJ201 | Oct 5, 2013 5:07:41 PM

  6. Nobody should be marching in Pride unless they support the principles of the march. If it's not about individual freedom, it's not about anything.

    Posted by: BZ | Oct 5, 2013 5:30:01 PM

  7. I think it is offensive that someone tried to force others to march in a parade they did not want to. This was not part of their job, they were not refusing to do their duty in protecting the parade or the people attending the parade, they were refusing to march in the parade. I'm sorry Chief Santiago but you are wrong on this one. If they had refused to do their job of protecting the parade participants and/or the attendees that would be a different matter.

    Posted by: Tckrguys | Oct 5, 2013 5:35:14 PM

  8. People shouldn't be forced to accept us! What we only want from religious people is respecting our rights.

    Posted by: litper | Oct 5, 2013 6:15:38 PM

  9. If they were assigned then they were there as part of their job. It is somewhat unclear as to whether they were "marching" or assigned as part of normal duty. Police often lead parades. If it was on the clock duty work then screw them. I bet they eat shrimp in violation of Lev. 9:12

    Posted by: Terry | Oct 5, 2013 6:34:17 PM

  10. What kind of screwy religion has prohibitions against parades?

    Posted by: FFS | Oct 5, 2013 7:05:30 PM

  11. Oh good, maybe we can get a religious exemption in there for protecting people, too. Assholes.

    Posted by: Tigerama | Oct 5, 2013 7:24:27 PM

  12. FFS, I think they are muslims .. or christians .. or sihks .. or buddhists. Take your pick, they're all anti-gays.

    Posted by: Kev C | Oct 5, 2013 7:45:48 PM

  13. Why bother having a police chief if the city council is the boss of the cops?

    Being a police officer is much like being in the military, you take orders from your superiors. You don't question the orders. You don't disobey the orders. You FOLLOW the orders. The were not ordered to like, accept, or appreciate gay people, they were ordered to march in a community parade.

    Posted by: Joesph Foster | Oct 5, 2013 8:26:49 PM

  14. There is a huge difference between a police officer being assigned to work the parade and one assigned to be in the parade.

    The courts have ruled that these parades are expressive in content, not just Pride Parades but the St Patrick's Parade and others. You cannot on the one hand claim that a parade is expressive conduct and on the other say that employees can be forced to be part of that expressive conduct.

    Koch Brothers can require their employees to make paper towels, the cannot require their employees to belong to the Tea Party.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 5, 2013 8:50:07 PM

  15. They are police officers. It's their job. The constitution sets a separation of church and state. They are paid to protect. Should they also be able to not respond to an emergency because the victims are gay or jews or black or KKK. This is pure hatred and discrimination and anyone who defends this decision is as stupid and overpaid as these officers. Keep your religion at home. Or sell shoes instead.

    Posted by: Al | Oct 5, 2013 8:50:10 PM

  16. I respect the police Chief--I don't respect the officers under him or their religion. I work for a municipality and we are there for everyone: the indigents, the people from other countries and other races. We try to help those who don't speak the language or who come from outside the city for help. These idiots frankly should lose their jobs for being insubordinate--they are on duty 24 hours a day; their shift may have ended, but their duty didn't. They have no business being in the public sector if they hold their dainty, made-up religious beliefs above their duty to their city and the people who pay their salaries.

    Posted by: woodroad34d | Oct 5, 2013 8:54:18 PM

  17. Hagatha, if they were working for a private company, you'd be correct. But they are working for the government. The city has a reason for them to march in the parade because it is in the public interest to do so. They have disobeyed orders and violated their terms of employment and can be held accountable or fired.

    Posted by: Kev C | Oct 5, 2013 9:12:03 PM

  18. kev C. I am sorry but no, they were not assigned to protect the parade, but to march in it. Theses officers should no more be forced to march in a pride parade, than I should be forced to march in a religious parade.

    Joining a local police force, is not like joining the military, and the fact that some commenters here made that comparison is a little embarrassing, I would have hoped people were a little more informed. Joining local police departments does hold you to a somewhat different standard of conduct than an average citizen, but you do not sign away your rights...and these officer have every right to their religious beliefs, they just don't have the right to force them on others....forcing them to march in a pride parade is sort of the reverse of that, and goes against everything pride is about,
    Had they refused duty protecting the parade or something like that, that is one thing, not wanting to march is their right, and we should stand up for everyone's rights even if we disagree.

    Posted by: Chris | Oct 5, 2013 9:35:20 PM

  19. As I said, if the city has a legitmate public interest in them joining the parade, ie, to represent the city or police force. It's not unusual for them to be representated in many different types of parades. But you don't get to choose which you march in. The city grants the permits, the city is the host, police work for the city.

    Posted by: Kev C | Oct 5, 2013 10:01:22 PM

  20. REALLY!?!?! and freeking THOU SHALT NOT KILL isn't part of their religious beliefs?!?!?! it's only ONE of TEN ultimate and absolute and easily spelled out forbidden acts to commit!!!! These str8 people are INSANE!!

    Posted by: rocco11 | Oct 5, 2013 10:13:02 PM

  21. To these trained police officers who use their religion to qualify spiritual principle : thou shall not kill .... So give your guns away, hypocrites.

    P.s. Separation between church and state. If your superior in law enforcement gives you a duty to perform for the benefit of the community, you do it otherwise it does set a very bad precedent not only for policy but for secular society. Are we now going to start allowing bigots to use the SIn List to disrupt society ?The Old Testaments' demands above the Constitution?

    As a police officer you represent the community, not your bigoted dogma.
    Case closed.

    Posted by: Malbert | Oct 5, 2013 10:38:35 PM

  22. These officers were ordered to MARCH, not to PROTECT. Completely outside the scope of their duties.

    If the Constitution means ANYTHING, it means that the government cannot force someone to say something that they don't want to say. And marching in the parade is certainly tantamount to speech under decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

    I am with the officers here. They should have the right to not march if they don't want to.

    Posted by: Jack | Oct 5, 2013 11:30:23 PM

  23. Will they refuse to march in a St Pstty's Day parade because they aren't Irish? Or not police the USC games because they are Clemson fans (that's the big SC rivalry.) Or refuse to represent the city at Santa give away at some shelter because they are Jewish?

    Of course not. I'm kinda surprised they got away with that since SC is in no way a union state and even state jobs have a my way or the highway slant to them.

    Posted by: robroy | Oct 5, 2013 11:33:47 PM

  24. The officers are ordered to represent the city. An official DUTY .. and some say .. an honor.

    If they don't want to do it, remember that there is no "right" to a police job. Exercise your religion at home and not on the job.

    Posted by: Kev C | Oct 5, 2013 11:50:31 PM

  25. If we want others to accept us, we must be willing to accept them. All of this religion bashing does absolutely nothing to advance our cause. That being said, I think there is a big difference between being asked to patrol the parade and actually having to be IN the parade. It is their job to protect others, so refusing to patrol the parade is basically refusing to do their job. However, if they were told to be IN the parade, that is a completely different ballgame and they have the right to refuse.

    Posted by: wheelie81 | Oct 6, 2013 12:33:14 AM

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