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October 6, 2015 / 23 Tishri, 5776
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It’s My Opinion: Conduct Unbecoming An Officer

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A recent scandal in South Florida has created quite a stir. An officer with the North Miami Beach police department has been accused of trying to cast a spell on the city manager. The action was allegedly engineered to make City Manager Lyndon Bonnet go away. Bonnet felt he had to trim the city budget. Some of the reductions would cut police jobs and funding. Apparently, everyone did not agree.

Officer Edith Torres reportedly tried to coax a janitor to help her sprinkle birdseed in a black-magic style hex. The birdseed was supposed to hold mystical power. The janitor balked and told her boss of the intended escapade.

As a result of the janitor’s report, Torres, a 24-year veteran of the police force, has been fired for “conduct unbecoming to an officer.”

South Florida is impacted by Afro-Caribbean religious practitioners. Many emanate from surrounding islands, including Haiti and Cuba. The practice of Santeria and voodoo are considered by many to be religious ceremonies. Both sects are loosely rooted in Catholic background, with a magical twist.

If the accusations against officer Torres are true, is she protected under the right of religious freedom? After all, isn’t this concept one of the most cherished privileges of our culture?

Yes, religious liberty is a cherished part of American ideology. However, the idea that everyone is entitled to pray and practice as he wishes does not include the right to hurt or harm others.

Law enforcement officials in the United States have an elevated obligation to protect the rights of citizens in our country. They swear to uphold these beliefs. We all are entitled to hold our opinions.

If the accusations against Torres are true, she is indeed guilty of conduct unbecoming to an officer.

About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.

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