Thursday, November 11, 2010

11 NOV 10: The Law and the Prophet

In church groups I've attended over the years, one issue has been whether ministers should act as "sheriffs" or "shepherds." In Columbus, we've come up with a third answer. You go around the Sheriff's Department, and work with the Marshal's Office.

Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman told Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer one of his volunteer chaplains did NOT break the law, in an encounter with a driver last week. And even if he had, this might have been one of those ministers who preaches the "law is done away."

In an unexpected turn, documents released Wednesday night quote the chaplain as saying he was almost arrested by police after the encounter. And the chaplain brings up the skin color of the officers - almost guaranteeing one more confrontation at Columbus Council before Mayor Jim Wetherington leaves office.

This all began last Wednesday in the Brookstone Centre neighborhood. Police reports indicate Deedra Fuller admits running a stop sign, and almost hitting the car of Pastor Marshall McGill. What happened after that is open to dispute -- but clearly the pastor did NOT turn the other cheek and drive on.

Deedra Fuller claims Marshall McGill then followed her to a Bradley Park Drive restaurant, flashed a badge and used profanity toward her. McGill admits following Fuller, but calls the rest of her comments a lie. This is why ministers in 2010 should avoid even mentioning the old song "Freak of the Week."

Marshall McGill says he asked through a car window on Bradley Park Drive if Deedra Fuller was OK, but Fuller acted arrogantly in response. If this is shocking to the pastor, I'd advise him to drive down Victory Drive or Interstate 185 during a typical afternoon rush hour.

Marshall McGill says in his written statement he tried to pull out a driver's license, and his Marshal's Chaplain badge may have flashed for a moment. But Deedra Fuller told the Ledger-Enquirer McGill waved the badge "belligerently," to make sure she saw it. There's a time to wave your hands in worship, and a time to avoid it....

The incident ended with both drivers exchanging license tag numbers, and Deedra Fuller reporting what happened to police. Pastor Marshall McGill says Columbus Police then went to Kingdom Metropolitan Worship Centre on Airport Thruway, talking about taking him to jail. Now THAT was the perfect time to flash the badge - slowly, of course.

Marshall McGill's statement says the officers who visited his church were Caucasian, and went to an "African-American pastored church with a closed mind." Yet McGill never actually was arrested, and his Wednesday night service went on as scheduled. Ten years ago in Columbus, Sheriff's Deputies might have followed him up the center aisle with handcuffs.

(The officers apparently left the church even before the service started - so McGill needs to find out which of his members has the gift of inspired preaching, to change their minds.)

With no arrest and no apparent charges, it's easy to dismiss all this as a game of "he said, she said." You can almost start an office pool for the day Deedra Fuller files suit against Marshall McGill, and McGill sues the Columbus Police Department. Attorneys Frank Martin and Stacey Jackson have got to stop meeting like this....

But some people see intriguing subplots in this story. They note Marshal Greg Countryman attends Kingdom Metropolitan Worship Centre - not to mention the strange coincidence that he's at a church with a "Marshall" as the pastor.

Other online accusers point in a very different direction. They say Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams has a vendetta against the Marshal -- as if Williams is calling 911 and filling out police reports.

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THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on changing the format of Columbus city elections ended Wednesday. Ten voters say the city should go to party primaries for mayor and council. But 11 voters say the current nonpartisan format should stay. I have no way of tracking who voted -- but don't you wonder if this vote was along party lines?

As of Wednesday afternoon, we have a new Big Blog Question - asking which candidate you support in the Post 9 citywide Columbus Council runoff. But to make things more interesting, we've borrowed from Nevada and added a line for "None of the Above." If comments start recommending Teresa Tomlinson fill that spot, we'll be a bit suspicious.

Did you see Travis Chambers's new TV commercial Wednesday night? The Post 9 finalist is endorsed by several people, including former mayor Bob Poydasheff. Since the current mayor backs Judy Thomas, it's like 2006 all over again - except the 2006 mayoral candidates didn't even point fingers at each other.

As for the mayor's race: the "Truth About Teresa" blog now is conspiracy theorizing Teresa Tomlinson may have "silenced" the two candidates who missed the runoff. Aw c'mon - the only thing that's silenced Paul Olson in the last five years is the cancellation of "Talkline" by WRCG.

A little election aftermath begins our check of other Wednesday news....

+ Rep. Sanford Bishop told WTVM he will NOT support outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for Democratic Leader. That's too bad for him - because fall is a great time to visit San Francisco on a fund-raising trip.

+ Muscogee County School Superintendent Susan Andrews told Richard Hyatt's website any rumors that she might resign are false. After all, Mark Cantrell didn't post any old pictures of her on Facebook - much less misspell her name.

+ A late-night fire caused $90,000 in damage to the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop on Veterans Parkway. A few miles away, the staff at another doughnut shop looked forward to a "Golden" day....

(For some reason, WTVM said the Krispy Kreme "restaurant" would be closed until further notice. If Krispy Kreme really is a restaurant, then the counter at Dinglewood's is a Zagat five-star award winner.)

+ The weekend brawl involving women at the Macon Road Waffle House earned a mention in Conan O'Brien's late-night monologue. I'd like to thank O'Brien's writing team for reading this blog - and I can write more jokes with updates about this case for a reasonable fee.

+ Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik insisted Cam Newton will start at quarterback this weekend against Georgia. Yet ESPN added to the claims of a "pay to play" arrangement for Newton to enroll at Auburn. There's an obvious question here that no one's asking - what does Bobby Lowder know, and when did he know it?

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Columbus State's women lathering LaGrange 78-63. But it was one of those "exhibition" games, since LaGrange is a Division III college. So who can LaGrange beat up in an exhibition - Callaway High School?

+ Instant Message to all Fort Benning soldiers and military veterans: I'm admittedly a bit jealous. You can get free food today at Applebee's, Chick-Fil-A and Outback Steakhouse. A lot of restaurant employees still don't know what a blog is -- much less offer a discount beyond free Wi-Fi.

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