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Catholic police officer gets suspended for going to Church while on duty

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Officer Mark Hovan.

MIDDLETOWN, Pennsylvania, December 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A Pennsylvania police officer has been suspended for ten days for going to Catholic Mass on a day of obligation while on duty and in uniform. 

Officer Mark Hovan, a 20- year veteran of the Middletown, Pa., police department, attended Mass in uniform on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation for Catholics.  

“Hovan, who said he is a devout Catholic, said it was necessary at times because of shift changes for him to go to church while on duty on occasion,” reports the Press & Journal, a local news outlet.  “Hovan said he kept his radio with him and that he had never missed a call while attending church on duty in uniform.”

The officer also said that attending Church while in uniform had never been an issue over his two decades of service, until a new Chief of Police took over at the beginning of this year.

According to an earlier report in the Press & Journal, Officer Hovan said, “his constitutional right to practice freedom of religion was being ‘infringed upon’ by the chief, adding ‘they (the department) made no accommodation at all for me.’”  

Hovan said he believes this constitutes a violation of his religious freedom, and so he is considering taking legal action.

He also suggested the punishment may be related to his current position as president of the borough’s police association.

Contention regarding church attendance while in uniform evidently began shortly after the new department head, Chief George Mouchette, took over.   

Hovan received his first formal reprimand from Mouchette in January for attending Mass on a Sunday morning in uniform.  Mouchette’s warning read, in part, “Never conduct personal business on Middletown Police Department time.”

The officer’s second citation for attending Mass again in August triggered a formal investigation, which resulted in the City Council’s 4 to 1 vote to recommend his temporary suspension.

Hovan maintains that he was always available for calls and that he didn't violate any department procedures. He noted that prior police chiefs actually encouraged his occasional Mass attendance, and that, over the years, other officers had also attended church on work time without being reprimanded.

Both infractions occurred at Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Middletown. It is not known whether Officer Hovan’s suspension is with or without pay. 

 

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