This Week in Clergy Ethics: Pastor Involved in Baiting Police

A pastor in Indiana is in hot water after apparently organizing a staged brawl at a public event to showcase – or test – the local police force’s response to a fight between two black men.

Reportedly, the two men involved in the altercation – at first verbal, then physical – were “trained” actors who were put up to this distasteful performance by a local pastor.  The organizes had requested a local officer come and give a presentation, and during the event two men in the crowd suddenly began fighting.  Says the source article,

James Harrington, pastor of the Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, said he set up the scenario to test a white officer’s reaction to a fight between two black men.

“Their job is to protect and serve, and even though they have families and children, that they don’t put any regard to their safety,” Harrington said. “I don’t think it was dangerous because it was in a controlled environment.”

Harrington denied that the officer was injured.”We are trying to do anything that we can to save the lives of our children,” he said. “We have to have live demonstrations of violence carried on by professional actors who are trained to do what they do.”

Seems like an odd way to help one’s children.  Am I being unnecessarily cynical in thinking that the intended outcome was perhaps a too-violent response from the police officer involved that could be used to fuel public outrage?

In any case, ’tis a strange way for a pastor to reach out to his community.  The officer involved was sent to the local hospital to be treated for back spasms after one of the – ahem – actors threw him to the ground.  The officer drew his taser (a show of commendable restraint) after being thrown and at that point was told that the incident was a ruse.

At least the pastor’s church has been smart enough to claim plausible deniability.

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