False Arrest: Ohio Cops’ Play Acting At Church Garners Bad Reviews

Fake arrests of pastors in Ohio mask a real problem.

And now a quick visit to the “what-could-they-possibly-have-been-thinking?” department.

Police officers in Summit County, Ohio, are in hot water after they agreed to participate in a publicity stunt designed to drum up interest in a play about how difficult it is for pastors to publicly defend the Christian faith.

As part of the stunt, sheriff’s deputies entered churches during services March 2 and “arrested” three pastors. Although the pastors knew the arrests were not real, the congregants did not. Video of the faux arrests later appeared online, which led a lot of people to wonder what the heck was going on.

“I want to clarify that none of the arrests were real,” Sheriff Steve Barry said in a statement. “It was all part of a skit that went along with the pastors’ sermons that day. I knew it was being filmed, but I thought it was only going to be shown to the congregation. Once it got out there on the Web, people were commenting about how disgusting we were to interrupt church services to effect an arrest.”

Sure, that makes sense! How could video of something possibly end up online when you didn’t want it to? That hardly ever happens! It’s not as if everyone carries a small device around these days that has a camera and a video recorder built in, right?

People in the area seem to be upset because they didn’t know the arrests were phony. They’re upset for the wrong reason. They ought to be angry that the sheriff’s office is participating in a goofy ploy like this.

Two of the deputies were off duty at the time, but two others were on the taxpayers’ clock. Yet instead of investigating crimes, assisting motorists or generally making the community safer, they were out and about helping some truly misguided religious leaders live out their dystopian fantasies about being persecuted in America

The play in question, “Defending the Faith,” will be staged at the Akron Civic Theater later this month. Promotional material for the event promises, “Area pastors will be on trial to determine if their ministry work evidences defense of the Christian Faith. Is your pastor in the line up?” Proceeds from the play will benefit a development company run by a Baptist church.

Area churches, of course, are free to use their own money and resources to stage a play like this. But I see no reason why the local sheriff’s office should be helping them promote it. Yet Barry seems unrepentant. He called the stunt a good way to continue building relationships.”

Actually, it’s a good way to waste taxpayer resources. Summit County’s finest need to get back to patrolling the streets and leave the promotion of religious plays to professional publicists.