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 to be allowed in. According to Sause, the officers did not identify themselves, and she could not see them through her broken peephole, so she did not open her door. As a rape survivor, Sause never opens her door to anyone she can’t identify.

The officers left, but later returned to her home and again demanded to be let in. When Sause came to the door, the officers asked why she didn’t answer the door the first time. Ms. Sause saw a pocket Constitution, given to her by her congressman, lying on a nearby table and showed it to the officers, who still had not explained the reason for their appearance. One officer laughed and said, “that’s just a piece of paper” that “doesn’t work here.”

Once inside her home, the officers continued to harass Sause. At one point, one officer told Sause to get ready 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, beginning to pray silently. But when the second officer returned to her apartment and saw her kneeling in silent prayer, he ordered her to “get up” and “stop praying.” Terrified, Sause complied.

The officers continued to harass her, forcing Sause to reveal any scars or tattoos on her body. They then flipped through the codebook to see how they could charge her. The officers finally issued Sause tickets for “Interference with Law Enforcement” and “Disorderly Conduct.” Only at the end of the encounter did they tell her that they were there for a minor noise complaint because her radio was too loud.

“The police are supposed to make you feel safe, but I was terrified that night,” Sause says. “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 of 2015, Sause filed a federal lawsuit in District Court in Kansas. Sause claimed, in addition to other alleged violations, that her First Amendment right to religious liberty was violated when the officers ordered her to stop praying in her own home.

In early 2016, the District Court dismissed Sause’s complaint, claiming that 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, along with attorneys from the international law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, appealed the District Court’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. First Liberty’s brief argues that the officers’ conduct violated Sause’s First Amendment right to pray in her own home and to be free from retaliation for exercising that right. Additionally, the brief argues that the District Court failed to follow proper rules of federal procedure when it dismissed her complaint. Read the brief.

“No American should be told that they cannot pray in their own home,” says Stephanie Taub, Associate Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “The right to pray in the privacy of one’s own home is clearly protected by the First Amendment.”

The City’s Response: “The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause [only] protects an individual’s right to choose a religion to practice”

On October 31, the City of Louisburg responded, arguing that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause merely “protects one’s ability to choose his or her religion” and that “stopping [Ms. Sause’s] prayer did not burden her free exercise of religion.”

On December 15, First Liberty and Gibson Dunn filed a reply brief defending Sause’s right to pray in her own home as a fundamental right clearly protected by the First Amendment and rejected the government’s response as a blatant misstatement of the law. Read the reply brief.

“The Free Exercise Clause protects the right to do exactly that – freely exercise one’s faith,” Bradley G. Hubbard, Litigation Associate at Gibson Dunn, says. “We urge the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision and allow Ms. Sause a meaningful day in court.”


For Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at 10:00 am MST

Contact: Kassie Dulin, kdulin@firstliberty.org
Cell: 214-542-4334, Direct: 972-941-4575 


Tenth Circuit hears case in which government claims the First Amendment only protects the right to choose a religion 

 On March 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit will hear oral arguments in a case filed by Ms. Mary Anne Sause. Police ordered Sause, a Catholic former nurse, to stop praying in her own home. In defending the police officers’ actions, the government argued that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause only “protects an individual’s right to choose a religion.” First Liberty Institute attorneys representing Sause argue that this is an incorrect statement of the Free Exercise Clause, which protects the not only the right to choose a religion, but also the right to freely exercise one’s faith. The attorneys say the outcome of the case could set a precedent affecting the First Amendment rights of every American. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a hearing on the case on Tuesday, March 21.

Read the case background and view legal documents at FirstLiberty.org/Sause

WHAT: Oral arguments in Mary Anne Sause v. Timothy J. Bauer, et al.

WHO: Mary Anne Sause, Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute, and Stephanie Taub, Counsel for First Liberty Institute, will be available for comment immediately following oral arguments.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kassie Dulin, Chief Communications Officer for First Liberty Institute. Cell: 214-542-4334, Email: kdulin@firstliberty.org. Backup: 972-941-4444.

WHEN: Oral arguments will begin on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at 10:00 am MST

WHERE: Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, 1823 Stout St. Denver, CO 80202

Read more and view legal documents and photos at FirstLiberty.org/Sause

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans. Read more at FirstLiberty.org

12/16/16 – Press Release 

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