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Pa. officer suspended after going to church while on duty

Officer Mark Hovan said he believes the suspension violates his religious freedom


By PoliceOne Staff

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — A Pennsylvania officer was suspended for 10 days after he attended a church service while on duty.

PennLive reports that the Middletown city council voted Tuesday 4-1 in favor of 20-year veteran officer Mark Hovan’s suspension, which was recommended by Chief George Mouchette. It was not specified if the suspension was with or without pay.

Hovan said he believes the suspension violates his religious freedom and he’s considering taking legal action. The officer added that he was always available for calls and doesn’t think he violated any procedures.

Mouchette disputes the claim that Hovan was suspended for going to church and said the officer was suspended for violating a direct order. The chief said Hovan was required to submit a request for time off if he needed to attend service, which he said Hovan failed to do.

"In fact, he was specifically told that if the needs of the community and the department allowed he could attend church. He was previously advised that if he was required to attend church services during his shift, he needed to request appropriate time off to attend. He never requested the time off," Mouchette said in a statement.

Hovan went to mass twice while in uniform. The officer said he didn’t have time to attend service off duty. In January, Hovan received a letter of reprimand from the chief after going to service in uniform and was told he wasn’t allowed to do it again.

Hovan later went to church in uniform on a holy day Aug. 15, which led to an investigation and to the council’s vote last Tuesday.

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