Pastor calls 911 to remove people from church
By Shelley Smith
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call from the Rev. Corey Barr at Mount Zion Baptist Church, Boyden Quarters, 1765 White Road, Sunday around 1 p.m.
Barr told dispatchers several people needed to be removed from a meeting/service in the sanctuary, and that “non-members (were) there disrupting a religious service,” the dispatcher’s report stated.
When two deputies arrived, they found about 100 people in the sanctuary divided into groups, shouting at each other, but no physical fighting.
Barr requested officers to remove about 20 people from the service who he said were not members of the church, the report said. The report said deputies were told the church was in a battle over by-laws and other issues.
The report said the associate pastor and two church elders told the officers not to remove anyone, and that Barr was wrong.
Barr has not returned calls from the Post.
According to the report, the meeting appeared to be out of hand, with no order or control by church administrators. Several people were videotaping the incident, it appeared.
A third deputy arrived, and the deputies “kindly advised” leaders of both parties it would be a good idea to dismiss the meeting before it became “more violent than it was,” the report said.
The meeting was dismissed and the last deputy left the scene at 2:12 p.m.
This was the second time the sheriff’s office has had to respond to the church following a 911 call from Barr.
According to the sheriff’s office, on Sept. 24, 2010, at 7:30 p.m., deputies were dispatched to a call of “80 people fighting in church” with no weapons, the 911 dispatch report stated.
Members of the church were arguing over the way money was spent in the church, and two people took the microphone away from Barr, the report said.
“We didn’t find fighting, but certainly an aggravated conversation was taking place,” Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said.
Auten said that at one point seven deputies were on the scene.
Barr hired reserve deputies Nov. 14 and 18, a Sunday and Thursday, because he was concerned for his safety, and because the church was having issues, Auten said.
“We were there to prevent, hopefully, anything that would get out of hand,” Auten said.
Trustee Claudie Boyd and church moderator the Rev. John E. Jones, of the Guiding Light Missionary Baptist Association, say Barr is misusing his powers and the reserve deputies, paid $20 an hour by Barr, were intimidating members of the church.
Jones said that during a meeting, the deputies allowed members of the church to enter the meeting room through only one door when there were multiple entrances.
“The presence of the sheriff’s deputies, with their guns on their hips, by the doors, placed a deep freeze or scare upon the First Amendment rights of the members of Mt. Zion,” a letter to Auten stated, written by Boyd and Alice Perry, associate minister.
“The presence of the deputies and their guns made it appear that Barr was right and had the backing of the law at the muzzle of a gun.”
Auten said the deputies who were hired by Barr knew about the Sept. 24 incident and knew there was an ongoing dispute between members and Barr.
“We were there as peacekeepers,” Auten said, noting he has spoken with the deputies and feels the officers did nothing other than be there to “keep the peace.”
As for Barr asking the deputies to kick people out of the meeting, which the letter alleges, Auten said it’s not true.
“If he (Barr) did, he did, but we didn’t force them to go out the door,” he said. “We’re not there to make decisions and pick sides about this.”
Auten said it’s “very rare” that 911 is called to a church in reference to a fight, and also rare for a pastor or church to request and hire deputies during church services or meetings.
“The church is an unusual request for security, but it’s not unheard of — but it’s typically for another purpose,” Auten said.
Jones said the letter was sent to Auten, County Commissioner Carl Ford and County Manager Gary Page Nov. 22, and neither he nor Boyd and Perry, who signed the letter, have heard a response.
“I want something in writing,” Jones said. “I want to know if he’s got a policy in place that will back up what he’s saying (about the role of reserve officers).”
Auten said reserve officers are paid $20 per hour and must be hired for a two-hour minimum. The officers must have their handgun and drive a patrol car due to the fact that it’s possible they may have to arrest someone at the event they are hired to provide security at. If an officer nearby were to need immediate help, the reserve deputy would have to leave his or her duties and respond to the call, and the fee for their services would be dropped.
Jones wants to see the policy in writing.
“What would taxpayers say if everyone (deputies) was at churches because they might have a problem, then what are the other people in the county going to do?” Jones said.