Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Praise the Lord, and pass your license and registration

You know you're in the Bible Belt when you get pulled over for speeding and the cop does a little roadside preachin' as he whips out the ticket book. And I'm not talking about lecturing me on the dangers of high speed driving. No, no... it was more of the "Amen and Hallelujah" type of preaching. Here's the story:

It was near the end of our family roadtrip last month. We had just left Los Abuelos' house and were headed out of town to start the journey home when I noticed a police officer on the side of the road pointing at our vehicle and motioning us to pull over. I was surprised since I had not made any turns or lane changes and had been driving about 35mph, which seemed appropriate on the town's main, 4-lane street. Why was this guy pulling us over? Did he just notice we had out-of-state plates on the van or what?

Well, it turns out the speed limit was only 20mph because we were near a school (though I did not notice any signs to that effect) and he had clocked me at 37. Alright, that was fine with me. I have two kids in school myself and am all for protecting them by appropriate means, including forcing drivers to slow down near schools. And, truth be told, I would have slowed down had I noticed the "school zone" sign with the 20mph limit posted on it. Really, I am not much of a speeder. The only citations I've received in the past 15+ years were a couple of parking tickets.

So, here's what did irk me about the incident. After taking my license and registration (and, I'm sure, checking on my driving record) he tells me that it's a $325 fine for the violation. Then, and here's the good part, he tells me "I'm going to bless you today, in the name of Jesus Christ."

I just stare at him. So he continues, "Yes sir, you can thank Jesus Christ for saving you $325 today, because He's blessing you. I'm just going to give you a warning and you can thank your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for this." He went on like that for a minute or two.

I just stammered, "Uh, thank you officer" as he handed my license back to me and we drove off.

Now, I don't have a problem with people of strong faith (I happen to be one). And I don't have a problem with Christians (again, I happen to be one). But I wondered... if I had been Jewish or Muslim or some other faith, would I have been offended by his statements? If that were the case, and I had verbalized my feelings, would he have still let me off with a warning? And, aside from that, is it really appropriate for an on-duty, uniformed police officer to make the statements he made? He's an agent of the government so, was some line between church and state crossed?

It bothered me, but I was thankful not to be stuck with the $325 fine. What do you think?

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