When three Ohio pastors were taken from their pulpits and arrested by local authorities for "defending the faith" over the weekend, parishioners were confused, concerned -- and terrified. Then, viral video of the "arrests" led to public anger.
But there was one major problem: the scenarios were staged.
The preachers featured in the video -- all from the Akron, Ohio, area -- had reportedly asked local officers to help them put together a video to help advertise a drama they will soon perform at the Akron Civic Center titled "Defending the Faith," the Associated Press reported.
Police arrest a pastor while he's preaching in mock video that sparked controversy (Image source: YouTube)
In that show, Christian pastors will face a mock trial during which they will defend their faith. The goal, as the Christian Post noted, is to show believers the importance of defending faith in the face of evil.
When police entered churches to facilitate the mock arrests during worship services, the Akron Beacon Journal said that many parishioners weren't aware that the arrests were fake.
Some church members were even crying as their beloved faith leaders were hauled off, though a member from the production reportedly explained what was happening as the pastors were removed from the building.
When videos of the mock arrests were subsequently placed online, though, some members of the public began to criticize Summit County Sheriff's office for what they believed were real-life examples of the rounding up and arresting of Christian pastors.
Sheriff Steve Barry found himself defending his office in the wake of the video release, telling media that the arrests were, indeed, staged.
"I want to clarify that none of the arrests were real. It was all part of a skit that went along with the pastors’ sermons that day," he said in a news release issued Tuesday. "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."
Image source: Facebook
The video that caused the controversy was reportedly created by Larry James, general manager of KAZ Radio Television Network.
Edra Frazier, the manager of marketing for the upcoming "Defending the Faith" production, told the Akron Beacon Journal that, though the clip has been effective, that the team needs to do a better job "of tagging the posts with production information."
Pastor Melford J. Elliott of Greater Bethel Baptist Church, Dr. Robert L. Golson of Prince of Peace Baptist Church and Pastor Vincent E. Peterson of Providence Baptist Church were arrested, according to Greater Bethel Baptist Church's Facebook page.
Watch the video below:
"Defending the Faith" will be performed March 22, according to Greater Bethel Baptist Church. Mock arrests will reportedly continue on Sundays until the production date.
Featured image via YouTube