Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Briarwood Presbyterian Church wants its own police force, but its racist heritage is ever present, even when taking on black opponents on the football field

(From theroot.com)

How ugly can white privilege get in the Age of Trump? When it morphs into white arrogance and sheer rudeness, as it did last fall at Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, the answer is "real darned ugly."

The school is part of Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA), the large suburban congregation that has decided in recent years that it needs its own police force for "protection." The truth is that Briarwood wants to "manage" news coverage of any future drug busts at the school, like the one that made it into the press in 2015. Those kinds of events tend to make white, suburban parents keep tuition dollars in their pockets -- or, Dear God, send their kids to public schools, for which they already are paying via tax dollars.

Ironically, our personal travelogue through legal hell involves Briarwood. It started with an under-the-table real-estate deal that allowed the school's football coach (and our former neighbor), Fred Yancey to live for free on school property, leaving us with a career criminal named Mike McGarity for our next-door neighbor. McGarity works at a reputable company (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama), but his bullying, threatening tendencies -- well illustrated in his extensive criminal record -- have turned our lives upside down. One can only wonder how someone with at least eight criminal convictions in his background could get a job at a place like BC/BS, which supposedly is required to have heightened security procedures because it deals in mega doses of federal tax dollars. Perhaps Koko Mackin, the company's PR mouthpiece, knows about such lapses, but has been instructed to keep her mouth shut about them.

On the legal front, many of the most loathsome characters in our Legal Schnauzer story -- state judge Mike Joiner, federal judge R. David Proctor, attorney Bill Swatek -- attend Briarwood, have sent kids to Briarwood, or both. Proctor, who helped Jeff Sessions (now Trump's attorney general) get a black federal judge removed from a problematic case in the 1990s, is cheating us at this moment -- in "The Jail Case" and "The House Case," both on appeal before the Eleventh Circuit.

You might think Briarwoodians would feel a little chastened after the flock's offspring were proven to have feet of clay, like the heathens in public schools, when it comes to illegal drugs. But you would be wrong. A recent article by Michael Harriot at theroot.com suggests students at Briarwood double downed on arrogance when it became apparent that Donald Trump -- perhaps the most unGodly man ever to run for president -- had a chance to lead Republicans back to the White House.

In an article titled "The Racist, Homophobic History of an Ala. Church Gunning for Its Own Police Force," Harriot does a splendid job of laying out the considerable baggage in Briarwood's past. He also focuses on an event last September that shows white "Christian" youngsters -- apparently with the support of teachers, administrators, and parents -- being jaw-droppingly rude to black guests in their midst.

Before a football game last September against predominantly black Fairfield High School (and by "predominantly," I mean "pretty much entirely"), Briarwood students prepared a goalpost sign through which their team was to enter the stadium. The sign read: "Make American Great Again: Trump the Tigers."

Briarwood, which has been rumored for years to recruit players due to its "private school" status, won the game, 27-0. But the sign makes me wish Fairfield had mopped the field with some spoiled white asses. It looks like U.S. Judge R. David Proctor comes by his racism honestly. Michael Harriot shows that such thinKKKing is woven into the fabric at Briarwood:

The church is presented as an all-American house of worship, but at its roots, Briarwood Presbyterian has right-wing, fringe beliefs that border on frightening.

Briarwood Presbyterian is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America. When you research the history of the PCA, you find that almost every source says that the main impetus for the church’s split from the greater Presbyterian organization was the Northern churches’ willingness to integrate, as explained by the Colorado Springs Gazette:

"When the denomination called for open churches that did not bar blacks . . . this was seen as a sign that the denomination was departing from true Christianity. For segregationist Presbyterians in Mississippi and elsewhere, any moderate stance on integration was a sign that liberalism was taking over the church.

"In response, segregationist Presbyterians began leaving the denomination. Some left officially. Others started movements [within] the denomination. They openly defied the denomination by refusing to allow blacks to worship in their churches or by firing pastors who wanted to do so."

These events, Harriot quickly points out, do not date to yesteryear. And they raise this question: Should these people be trusted with their own armed forces?

So those churches banded together to form the PCA. While this might sound like a pre-Civil War origin story, this did not take place in the antebellum South—this was 1973. And where did those churches meet to form this union of segregationist places of worship? PCA’s website proudly explains its history:

"In December 1973, delegates, representing some 260 congregations with a combined communicant membership of over 41,000 that had left the PCUS, gathered at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and organized the National Presbyterian Church, which later became the Presbyterian Church in America."

Yes, the home place of a sect of fundamentalist segregationists is about to get its own army.

Yep, "fundamentalist segregationists" started Briarwood. And the 2016 football season provided evidence that such "thinking" remains central to the church/school's culture. It even goes straight to the top, according to Harriot:

Harry Reeder, the Briarwood Presbyterian pastor, is as problematic as the place of worship. He is a longtime advocate for the Confederate flag and speaks at ceremonies for neo-Confederate groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Although religious organizations are prohibited from taking political stances, Reeder often shills for the Republican Party, as he did in his recent broadcast “Mike Pence Places a Hedge Around His Marriage.”

He also finds time to repudiate everything Obama, which he did April 6 in this broadcast from the church’s radio station: “Unmasking, Leaking, Lying, Obama’s Watergate?” A drug raid at the church’s high school in 2015 is still shrouded in mystery.

The notion of Briarwood having its own police force raises all sorts of troubling questions, and Harriot lays them out in the open:

A church official explains the church’s need for a police force by telling reporters, “After the shooting at Sandy Hook and in the wake of similar assaults at churches and schools, Briarwood recognized the need to provide qualified first responders to coordinate with local law enforcement.” The Root examined records at Birmingham’s 911 call center and scoured the archives of local news agencies and could find no emergency calls or precedent for any type of violence at Briarwood that would warrant a police force. The school does not need permission to hire armed guards or a security team, so what is really behind this bill?

Harry Reeder (center)
(From rootsweb.ancestry.com)
If the bill becomes law, does that give the church its own municipal code of conduct? Will the church’s laws be enforced by officers? Are they subject to anti-discrimination laws? If Briarwood’s students are found with drugs on campus, do the church cops get to handle it themselves? Is the school’s small minority of black students safe? Can they banish LGBTQ teachers, students or parishioners? Should the taxpayers of Alabama be responsible for training a church’s private security force? If so, are they subject to the federal and state anti-discrimination hiring practices?

If the state of Alabama gives Briarwood its own police force, it will no longer be a church. It will be a white, fundamentalist, Christian armed compound with its own army, right next to one of the blackest, most defiant cities in America.

What could go wrong?

As we have learned from personal experience, folks connected to Briarwood tend to lie -- a lot, as in whoppers. If they are judges, they violate black-letter law -- and constitutional basics -- with impunity.

Consider the notion that Briarwood's desire for a police force is tied to the Sandy Hook shooting. The mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, happened in 2012. Briarwood's desire for its own police force became known after the school's drug bust in 2015.

Should Briarwood be trusted with a heavily armed police force? Not in a million years. As Michael Harriot says, "What could go wrong?"


Anonymous said...

Kids don't get educated at Briarwood, they get brainwashed.

Anonymous said...

The meanspiritedness of that sign blows my mind.

Anonymous said...

Many of the Briarwood students and parents probably thought the sign was funny, even clever.

Anonymous said...

Briarwood is a cult. This is how cult members react to people who are not members of the cult.

Snickers said...

I guess manners and courtesy are not part of the curriculum at Briarwood. Must be too busy studying Deuteronomy.

Heath said...

I wonder how many of the white students at Briarwood will sign up to fight Trump's wars in North Korea, Syria, China . . .

Anonymous said...

Another sign that right-wing, "faith-based" voters aren't really about faith. They are about race. Trump has no signs of having a serious faith, but Briarwood chumps support him because he supports the color of their skin.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting history lesson about Briarwood. I'd heard that it was started by segregationists, but didn't know for sure. Mr. Harriot put things in a very clear perspective.

legalschnauzer said...

Hah, good point, 10:25. The Briarwood kiddies will hire the Fairfield football team to fight Trump's wars for them.

Anonymous said...

If Reeder is going to bash Obama and kiss Mike Pence's rear-end, fine. But his church needs to lose its tax-exempt status.

Anonymous said...

It probably wasn't an accident that Proctor was assigned to your cases.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:44 --

You are right, without question. The notion that court cases are "randomly assigned" to judges is a joke, one of many frauds our "justice system" pulls on the public.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? 30+ year old misdemeanors, most of which were some sort of drinking offense - that's why you're calling him a career criminal? I thought you were better than this. I thought that the trash you've been cranking out here recently was just a phase. But this ridiculous. You're losing a long time reader.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:41 --

You are not well informed. One of the offenses involved violence, another involved sex, another involved drinking and driving. One that was nol prossed involved drugs. That's all OK with you? Hopefully, you aren't in a position of authority. McGarity probably got off easy because his daddy was a lawyer. In other words, he was a child of privilege and still turned out as a sack of shit.

How about bringing bogus lawsuits against neighbors after you've threatened and terrorized them, including someone throwing a metal object through their window in the middle of the night? How about being such a coward that he hit a neighbor (me) in the middle of the back with a street sign. That was a felony assault, and he got away with it because the corrupt loons who run Shelby Co. insisted it was a misdemeanor when it wasn't.

The felony assault and window incident happened in the 2004-06 range, so this isn't ancient history. He's also lied under oath repeatedly in the 2000s, and the constitutes a crime known as perjury. Perhaps you've heard of it.

Do you know Mike McGarity? I do, and he's about as bad a guy as they come. He is now, and he was 30 years ago.

I look forward to your exit. I'm not interested in attracting stupid readers like yourself. The chip on your shoulder seems about as big as McGarity's.

e. a. f. said...

why a church would need its own police force is beyond me. who would they police? would their "reach" extend to non members of the church? what physical area would they over? what would their status be in relationship to other police forces? If there were something like a murder, who does the investigating? how do they relate to state prosectors, etc.

now when it comes to other issues under the category of what could go wrong, well, do the "police officers" get to stop any person of colour and order them around? what if some one says you don't have any authority to arrest me and the shoot them?

given the U.S.A. is some what prone to suing let the lawyers open office around that area and they will make a lot of money. Lets hope the state imposes some sanity and refuses to give the church the right to have its own police force. if they want their own security on church premises, fine, who cares, but a real live police force, upp that is going to make the 6 p.m. news even in Canada when the shit hits the fan.