A Roman Catholic police officer is suing the city to stop his department from posting him at an abortion clinic that he guarded in case of trouble from anti-abortion demonstrators.

Angelo Rodriguez's federal lawsuit also seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages."The case raises very profound and timeless issues," Rodriguez's lawyer, David Shaneyfelt, said this week. "If this were 1859, could he be forced to maintain watch at a slave auction? Legal abortion is as wrong as legal slavery to him."

The city, which has a written policy of accommodating employees' religious beliefs, has said Rodriguez was assigned to preserve order, not promote abortion.

"It would be an undue hardship on the Chicago Police Department to allow its members to determine their assignments and schedules," city attorney Jay Kertez has said.

The lawsuit filed this week charges that the department discriminated against Rodriguez by refusing to make reasonable accommodations for his religious beliefs. The city has until Oct. 10 to respond to the suit.

Rodriguez, a 15-year veteran, said he asked for another work detail in the fall of 1993 after he was twice assigned to guard a West Side abortion clinic.

Rodriguez's supervisor agreed in January 1994 to exclude him from clinic assignments, but the officer was ordered again in November to guard the clinic. He did so under protest.

He has been on desk duty since December due to a medical condition but fears he will be assigned to abortion clinic duty again, according to the complaint.

Rodriguez could not be reached for comment. His phone number is unlisted, and Shaneyfelt declined to provide it.