November 2019 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

A Tennessee woman claims that a sheriff’s deputy in Hamilton County offered to drop drug-possession charges against her if she would agree to be baptized.

The woman, who has filed a lawsuit against the county, has not been named in media reports. She alleges that Deputy Daniel Wilkey followed her after she left a convenience store Feb. 6 around 10 p.m. When she arrived at a friend’s house, Wilkey pulled up behind her and ordered her to submit to a search. He also searched her vehicle and during the search, he found a portion of a marijuana cigarette. She said Wilkey told her he had reason to believe she was in possession of methamphetamine.

At that point, Wilkey asked the woman if she had been “saved” and told her that he believed God wanted him to baptize her, reported the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Her lawsuit asserts that Wilke told her that if she would submit to baptism, he would issue her a criminal citation for the possession of marijuana rather than take her to jail.

The woman said she agreed, and that Wilkey told her to get some towels from the house and then told her to follow him to a nearby boat ramp at Soddy Lake. There another deputy, Jacob Goforth, arrived.

The woman’s lawsuit alleges that Wilkey then “stripped nearly naked” and invited her to undress as well. She declined, and he led her waist-deep into the water and submerged her under it.

The woman’s lawsuit says she was “shivering uncontrollably, and felt horribly violated.”

The woman’s lawsuit was filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court Oct. 1. She maintained that Wilkey and Goforth had deprived her or her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of religion and that Wilkey had subjected her to an unreasonable search. Both deputies are also accused of negligence, battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.