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Mary Anne Sause Ordered to “Stop Praying” in Her Own Home

Mary Anne Sause, a retired Catholic nurse on disability, was at her Louisburg, Kansas home on the night of November 22, 2013, when two police officers approached her door and demanded that Sause allow them inside. Sause did not open her door because the officers did not identify themselves and she could not see them through her broken peephole. As a rape survivor, Sause never opens her door to anyone she can’t identify.

The police officers left, but later returned to Sause’s home and again demanded to be let inside. When Sause came to the door, they asked why she didn’t answer the door the first time. Ms. Sause showed her pocket Constitution to the officers, who still had not explained the reason for their appearance, and she questioned whether she was required to let them in her home. One officer laughed and said, “that’s just a piece of paper” that “doesn’t work here.”

Once inside Sause’s apartment, the officers continued to harass her. An officer told Sause to prepare to go to jail. When Sause asked why, he said, “I don’t know yet.”

Frightened, Sause requested the officer’s permission to pray. The officer allowed it, and Sause knelt to begin praying silently. When the second officer returned and saw Sause kneeling in silent prayer, he ordered her to “get up” and “stop praying.” Terrified, Sause complied.

Only at the end of the encounter did the officers inform Sause that they came to her home because of minor noise complaint that her radio was too loud.

“The police are supposed to make you feel safe, but I was terrified that night,” Sause said. “It was one of the worst nights of my life.”

Legal Justice for Sause Denied

Following the encounter, Sause reported the incident to the officers’ supervisors several times. Every time, she was ignored.

In November 2015, Sause filed a federal lawsuit in a Kansas district court. The district court dismissed Sause’s complaint, claiming the police officer’s order to stop praying “may have offended her,” but did not “constitute a burden on her ability to exercise her religion.”

First Liberty Legal Action

On September 28, 2016, First Liberty Institute and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, appealed the district court’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

After hearing arguments on the case, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision on June 20, 2017. The majority assumed that First Amendment violations occurred, but concluded that the police officers were shielded from liability based on the legal doctrine of qualified immunity. Read the opinion.

“The Tenth Circuit’s opinion assumed the police officers violated Ms. Sause’s constitutionals rights when they mocked her, humiliated her, and ordered her to stop praying in her home,” said Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty. “Police officers should have known that ordering a woman not to pray in her own home violates the First Amendment.”

In November 2017, First Liberty and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to hear and issue a final decision in the case.

“The constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens like Ms. Sause should not be ignored, and she deserves her day in court,” said Stephanie Taub, Counsel for First Liberty. “This case is about protecting the religious liberties of a private citizen in one of the most sacred and protected places in legal doctrine: the home. We are hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize Ms. Sause’s case as one of the utmost importance and grant her petition.”

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: November 20, 2017

Contact: Lace McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

First Liberty Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Review Case of Woman Ordered by Police to Stop Praying in Her Home  

Attorneys say police should have known their actions violated the First Amendment


WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Friday, attorneys for First Liberty Institute and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in Sause v. Bauer on behalf of their client, Mary Anne Sause. Read the petition here.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to reverse the appellate court’s ruling in the case. In 2013, police officers entered Sause’s home to investigate an alleged minor noise complaint. After entering, they harassed her and ordered Sause, a devout Catholic, to stop praying in her home. Sause later filed a lawsuit against the police officers, chief of police, and city officials.

In June, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit agreed with a lower court’s decision to dismiss Sause’s case. The majority opinion for the Tenth Circuit panel assumed that a First Amendment violation occurred, but stated that the police officers were shielded from liability based on the legal doctrine of qualified immunity.

“The Tenth Circuit’s opinion assumed the police officers violated Ms. Sause’s constitutional rights when they mocked her, humiliated her, and ordered her to stop praying in her home,” said Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty. “Police officers should have known that ordering a woman not to pray in her own home violates the First Amendment.”

“The constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens like Ms. Sause should not be ignored, and she deserves her day in court,” said Stephanie Taub, Counsel for First Liberty. “This case is about protecting the religious liberties of a private citizen in one of the most sacred and protected places in legal doctrine: the home. We are hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize Ms. Sause’s case as one of the utmost importance and grant her petition.”

To learn more, visit FirstLiberty.org/Sause.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

To download this press release, please click here.


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Credit photos to Kat Fitzke Photography, courtesy of First Liberty Institute.