Local News

Unique DWI defense questions legality of Duke police

Posted November 23, 2010 4:58 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2010 6:42 p.m. EST

— A man charged with driving while impaired by Duke University police is arguing that the school doesn’t have the legal right to make the arrest. In a motion to dismiss the charge filed Tuesday, attorneys William J. Thomas II and James H. Monroe argue that because Duke is a religious institution, a university police department is an illegal entanglement of church and state.

The attorneys cite Duke’s Divinity School and the prominence of Duke Chapel on campus and as a representation of the university.

Thomas Holloway was stopped by Duke police Oct. 11 near the intersection of Main and Ninth streets in Durham. He was cited for DWI and driving after drinking by someone under 21.

His attorneys laid out an eight-page explanation of why Duke University should be considered a religious institution.

Current students disagreed.

"I'm not quite sure what it is about the university aside from its founders and charter would make it Methodist," graduate student Brian Goldstone said.

"I think it's very open to pretty much any religious denomination or practice,” freshman Cameron Crawford said.

Holloway’s lawyers quoted the Duke by-laws, which read, in part:

The aims of Duke University are to assert a faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teaching and character of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

They cite as an example a case where Campbell University was found to be a religious institution.

"The cases that have been brought before the court involve institutions whose policies and practices we believe are significantly different from Duke," said Mike Schoenfeld, Duke vice president for Public Affairs and Government Relations.

Schoenfeld said Duke doesn't even require students to attend a religious course.

The lawyers also point out in the filing that two-thirds of the members of Duke’s Board of Trustees are elected by the United Methodist Church.

Schoenfeld said while some trustees are approved by the church, they aren’t required to be Methodist.