Atheist Cop Gets Demoted to Car-Washer After Refusing to Lead Prayer

Alvin Marrero-Méndez is an atheist and a cop from Puerto Rico. Those two worlds collided a year ago when he and 40 of his colleagues met up to decide how to handle issues in Carolina (in the northern part of Puerto Rico).

It was at that meeting when Commander Guillermo Calixto-Rodríguez asked for a volunteer to lead the group in prayer (PDF):

Just say no.

[Marrero-Méndez] called [Calixto-Rodríguez] aside and told him that he objects to such official prayers because they promote religious beliefs to which he does not subscribe. He also pointed out that the prayer violated Department regulations, which provide that “[a] strict separation shall be maintained between the church and the state.”… Plaintiff informed Defendant Guillermo Calixto-Rodríguez that he felt very uncomfortable taking part in the prayer and that he did not want to participate.

Defendant Guillermo Calixto-Rodríguez became upset and ordered Plaintiff to abandon the formation. Following the commanding officer’s instructions, Plaintiff separated himself from the formation. As Plaintiff was walking away, Defendant Calixto-Rodríguez shouted that Plaintiff should stop and stand still until the prayer was finished. Then, in front of the entire formation, Defendant Guillermo Calixto-Rodríguez shouted that Plaintiff was standing apart from everyone else because “he doesn’t believe in what we believe.” Plaintiff felt humiliated and turned his back to the formation until the prayer, which was explicitly Christian, ended.

After 14 years as a trained police officer, that incident led to Marrero-Méndez getting a new assignment:

Now, instead of carrying out the law enforcement duties for which he is trained, the sole employment duties assigned to Plaintiff, a 14-year veteran of the Department, have been those of a car-washer and messenger.

On several occasions, Plaintiff has been ordered to report to work during the night shift, when the vehicle garage is closed, leaving him without any work to do. He has also been ordered to wash patrol cars under the harsh blazing sun of the early afternoons.

Unbelievable. He got demoted from cop to car-washer, despite doing everything right. The superior officer, on the other hand, broke the rules and suffered no punishment at all.

Marrero-Méndez’s has also been the subject of a lot of workplace proselytization.

This should be an easy case. Still, I’m sure the Christian side will inevitably argue that this is some sort of violation of their religious freedom. They should have a right to pray! And, apparently, to force everyone else to do it, too!

As one commenter at Raw Story put it:

I’d offer a corollary to that: If that’s how they treat someone who obeys the law, I’d hate to see what happens to a criminal.

(image via Shutterstock — Thanks to Richard for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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