After it emerged that black men's mugshots had been used by cops as target practice at a south Florida shooting range — discovered by a National Guard sergeant who recognized one of the men in the photo as her brother — the case bothered a lot of people, including members of the clergy. A Lutheran pastor started an online discussion entitled #UseMeInstead about the practice, which the group found particularly troubling in the wake of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson and the Eric Garner case in New York City.
Rev. Lura Groen of Houston created a Facebook group and invited other clergy to post their photos in a show of support. They chose the Twitter hashtag #usemeinstead, urging the North Miami Police department to substitute the clergy's photos for their target practice.
A statement on the pastors' Facebook page explains their stance:
We have been watching stories of police violence against people of color, with great concern. Although we acknowledge the need for a police force that is trained in the use of their firearms, we feel that, if pictures of human targets are used for target practice, great care should be taken in not allowing the selection of these targets to allow for the dehumanization of those most vulnerable to police violence.
To the members of the North Miami Beach Police: If you must use pictures of real humans for your target practice, we request that you use ours. We're sending pictures of ourselves, in our clergy uniforms, to use.
Clergy haven't exactly been overwhelmingly popular of late; many religious denominations have taken hardline stances against gay marriage and generally failed to recognize LGBT rights. But whatever your religious affiliation, it's hard not to be impressed with the #usemeinstead campaign.
And here are some other members of the clergy who stepped up or stepped in to situations, just because it was the right thing to do.
Clergy Lead Protest March In Ferguson And Get Arrested
As part of a four-day civil disobedience action in October to protest the death of Michael Brown, clergy led a march of hundreds of people to the Ferguson police station, and many were arrested, according to St. Louis NPR station KWMU.
During the protest, Pastor Charles Burton had his body outlined with chalk.
Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy, not just from the Ferguson area, were the first of dozens of people arrested in the march, the Huffington Post reported, and some asked the police officers to "repent" as they were being put in handcuffs.
Frank Schaefer Marries His Gay Son
Frank Schaefer, a Methodist minister, officiated a gay wedding and got himself suspended. One of the grooms in the wedding happened to be his son, Tim. The church asked Schaefer to promise never to officiate another gay wedding. He declined, saying the church's "love the sinner, hate the sin" doctrine had to stop.
“We have to stop treating them as second-class Christians," Schaefer said at his trial. He was finally reinstated by the church late last year.
Sister Megan Rice: "Have No Leniency On Me"
Last February, Sister Megan Rice was sentenced to three years in prison for breaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. as a protest, and defacing a storage bunker containing enriched uranium (!) at the facility, according to the Associated Press.
Rice was disappointed in the sentence: According to a report in The Tennessean, she wanted her jail term to be longer. "Please have no leniency on me," she told the judge. "To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me."