Pastors aim to keep peace at Zimmerman trial
Pastors such as the Rev. Robert K. Gregory Jr., the Rev. Lowman J. Oliver III and the Rev. Joel Hunter hope to play a peacekeeping role during the George Zimmerman trial.
June 24th, 2013
07:57 AM ET

Pastors aim to keep peace at Zimmerman trial

By Mark I. Pinsky, special to CNN

Sanford, Florida (CNN) – As opening arguments begin, courtroom seats are at a premium at the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

But in an unusual arrangement, four seats in the second row, just steps from the jury box, have been assigned to a group called “Sanford Pastors Connecting.”

The multi-racial ministerial association has pledged to bear witness to the high-profile proceedings during the trial and to keep the peace afterward.

All of the clergy in the courtroom project have agreed to support the jury’s verdict in the racially-charged case, which sparked large rallies and marches led by civil rights figures like the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

As needed, the pastors will report courtroom events to crowds expected to gather outside the courthouse, as well as to their congregations, and have agreed to head off inflammatory rumors.

“Regardless of what the verdict is, we can avoid the violence," said the Rev. Robert K. Gregory Jr., of the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry in Sanford. "If we work together, trust can be built.”

Zimmerman, a member of the Neighborhood Watch in his gated community, is accused of stalking and fatally shooting Martin, who was staying with his father, on February 26, 2012.

The defense claims that Martin, returning from a convenience store, turned on Zimmerman, who then fired in self-defense.

The Zimmerman trial: What you need to know

Two dozen media spaces on the courtroom’s polished wooden seats have been assigned by lottery, with an equal amount set aside for the general public. Another twelve spots in the rectangular chamber are reserved for the Zimmerman and Martin families.

The pastoral rotation is the idea of the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service. A Seminole County Sheriff’s inspector, who is also an ordained minister, handles the scheduling. Among the Christian clergy who have signed up, there are evangelical and mainline congregations; tiny, urban parishes and suburban megachurches.

“We’re looking at providing leadership, to comfort people through the word of God and prayer,” said the Rev. Sharon Patterson, of Getting Your House in Order Ministries, a small African-American congregation.

“We want our presence to encourage them to understand that as long as God is in control, everything will work out all right,” the pastor said.

Patterson brings a particular past to her courtroom witnessing. She once aspired to be a lawyer herself, spending summers when she was first teaching public school, and had no air conditioning at home, going from trial to trial.

While most Sanford-area African-American congregations rallied around the Martin family and their call for justice immediately following the shooting, some predominately white churches and clergy were divided.

The Rev. Alan Brumback, pastor of Sanford’s Central Baptist Church, was one of the first – and few – local white clergy to join the predominately black marches and demonstrations in the wake of the Martin shooting.

However, Brumback, whose congregation is multi-racial, said he would not be a part of the courtroom program.

“I am calling my church to pray for our city and to share the only news that can bring reconciliation,” he said, “the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is my only agenda.”

Live blog: Zimmerman trial begins

Whatever it is, the verdict will be God’s will,  said the Rev. Lowman J. Oliver III of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford.

“We pray that the outcome will be just and fair to all parties,” he said. “How will it look? I’m not able to answer that. Our roles are as peacemakers. It’s more important that we send a message that we sustain the peace.”

However, Oliver said, peaceful acceptance of a verdict does not mean people will have to agree with it. They can certainly have “a righteous response,” as long as it is nonviolent.

“There is a history of division in this community, and there is a history involving violence against black youth” that must be addressed, said the Rev. Joel Hunter, of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida. A prominent evangelical, Hunter is also a close confidant of President Obama's.

After a long, tedious day of sitting together during jury selection, Hunter, Oliver and Gregory were finishing each other’s sentences.

Laughing, they admitted that they were unused to sitting still and silent in unpadded pews for so long – while others did the talking.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • Politics

soundoff (260 Responses)
  1. Lorraine


    July 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

  2. Doubly anonymous posts are unwelcome?

    July 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  3. Pete

    These pastors will be needed because of the racism apparently still going on after all these years..NRAand ALEC two groups that have donated to back Zimmermans legal team that are also behind the STAND YOUR GROUND LAW that Gov.Jeb Bush signed into law with these same groups blessings that could be affected if this court case goes away from self defense to premeditated as it should be..Look up ALEC as well that was caught with white supremisist,KKK members as employees and tell me that isn't racially biased !!If Zimmerman walks from this trial a free man than our justice system is not only broken but morally,ethicly corrupt as well because its money,pressure from these groups that'll change the tide as it did in the OJ Simpson trial and look where's he's at now after being freed for years back where he originally intended to be,in prison!!Zimmerman stalked Trayvon plain and simple and if he had stayed put in his car as instructed by police dispatchers or identified himself upon confronting Trayvon as a community watch than this wouldn't had ever happened,just a simple word for all you wanne be lawyers out there,Zimmermans guilty just read up and don't take what you read on these sites as facts,find out for yourself like I did and its much different than what I got here and I'm in Florida and I've heard it all!!

    July 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Pete; You clearly don't understand Florida self-defense law. If GZ if found not guilty all that means is that the jury has spoken. Why can't you respect a jury’s decision when it doesn't match your opinion?

      July 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Charley

      Apparently, we don't need a trial. Pete knows exactly what happened, and what needs to be done. Why bother with a trial, just ask Pete.

      July 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  4. tre

    ......These men will be needed.....regardless of the verdict..........If Zimmy is found innocent, young Af/Ams could become angry.............and if Zimmy is found guilty, young whites and racists might get crazy............

    July 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  5. David Laidig

    American "pastors" are a joke. Any "religious figure" who gets paid to preach is a businessman not a pastor. My favorite is prosperity ministry.

    July 1, 2013 at 4:56 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 29, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • Science

      the ass hat is back...............teaching the fear of hell is NOT good for children.

      June 29, 2013 at 5:51 am |
    • Colin

      Hell is a reality you are not. You are to science as stupid is to common sense.

      June 29, 2013 at 5:58 am |
    • Science

      Not good for children !!!

      Protest at the Good News Club Spectacular


      June 29, 2013 at 6:09 am |
    • Colin

      Thanks for proving my statement you are indeed stupid.

      June 29, 2013 at 6:21 am |
    • Nate

      Religion is Slavery

      June 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Dilworth

      Yeah... then change this ....

      July 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  7. Rubin

    You stalked me (only because I was a teenager you were confident you could make an example out of) ... You trapped me in my own back yard... i defend myself, I get on top and fearful that you may get up and hurt me..... I fight harder you... you shoot
    and kill me.... And now you say it's self defense?????????????

    June 29, 2013 at 2:10 am |
    • Visitor

      Yep, and the Sanford Police all but kissed the killer's booboos.

      July 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • dolly taylor

      This is so sad, and tell me why this man have so much hate in his heart? Will he be able to rest in peace the rest. of his life, I pray trayvon's parents will forgive this killer, that is the only way the parents will have peace, GOD will take care of mr Zimmemon and I pray he will repent before to late. I do not see any remorse from him.

      July 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  8. Judy Pickens

    Had Mr. Zimmerman been smart, he would had stayed in the car as he was instructed, he would not be where he is today.

    June 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Dilworth

      And this is why men have balls ... and women don't.

      July 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  9. Al

    Let's see how good these pastors are if the jury comes back with a not guilty verdict. And let's see how good they are if they come back with a guilty verdict.

    June 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  10. Phill

    BS – Religion is the mother of hate

    June 27, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • Oh the humanity

      Demographics in general is the mother of hate.

      June 27, 2013 at 1:31 am |
  11. newsscooper

    The Supreme Court just killed marriage as shown in this viral video http://youtu.be/O1TAxx10tHg that shows it is not just an immoral social decision but it can cost trillions of dollars to US.

    June 26, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The immoral decision was passing the reDefinition Of Marriage Act in the first place. How is it immoral to give all citizens equal rights?

      June 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Dilworth

      The sky is falling... the sky is falling..

      July 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  12. tom

    Unless parents of black or white kids care more about where and what time their kids are out after dark......Let's back up. It's after dark, in a neighborhood with a lot of breakins.... Neighborhood watch looks for anything unusual. Parents are expected to be responsible to not let their kids roam around outdoors after its dark.... I blame the parents of the dead victim for their loose taps on their son..... now...... maybe some other parents will make sure their kids are home where they belong when it gets dark and the hoods or thugs are out to break in other homes so they can buy drugs or whatever. No sympathy from me...... actually I think the parents of the dead kid should be disciplined. Are they going to let the rest of their kids run around outside at night? I never could do that when I grew up...my parents kept me nice and safe in our house.... sorry sorry sorry..... learn the hard way.

    June 26, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Akira

      You are aware that there are black families living in that community, are you not? And you were not allowed out after dark when you were 17? Really?

      June 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • USMC1371

      I blame the parents also after the pics with the guns and drugs face it they failed thier child and it cost him his life.

      June 27, 2013 at 3:17 am |
    • yeah, sure

      Lmfao. Blame the victim. Hey, zimmy baby is just as much at fault, the gun-totin bully who beats up women. You both are p o s who don't care because just anotha black kid is dead. No big toot, right?

      June 27, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • USMC1371

      Yeah, sure
      Retard you might want to ask what someone's ethnicity is before you puke up more of your racists trash. Neither of us said a word about race just parenting. So you can't argue the point which leads your feeble mind to attack on racism.

      June 28, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • Rubin

      I get it Tom.... But this is America and it's not against the law roam the streets at night. Let's not forget that it was raining and just perhaps a hood was appropriate. We don't know the full situation, he could have stayed at a friends house until his parents got home. We just can't always assume drugs and or poor parenting. Regardless of the situation TM is dead for trying to make it home at the wrong hour. And GZ lives to fight another day.

      June 29, 2013 at 2:24 am |
    • Visitor

      Yeah learn the hard way some thug with a gun will shoot your teenager down after dark, and a bunch of like-minded men applaud. Talk about gang-bangers.

      July 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Visitor

      Learn the hard way that parents will get blamed when they didn't protect their teen from the neighborhood watchman who totes a gun and gets protected by the police who stonewall the parents. Am I the only one who remembers how this became a media issue in the first place? The parents got stonewalled by the hideous Sanford Police?

      July 1, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  13. MTD

    Prediction: GZ found not guilty, blacks will riot. GZ found guilty, whites will not.

    June 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • USMC1371

      He will be found guilty just because the jury won't have the guts to do what's right they will worry that they will become a target of the social police.

      June 27, 2013 at 3:24 am |
    • dolly taylor

      You are without a brain in your head, if the blacks fight I hope they get you first, not kill you but leave you with a life that you will forever remember your hate

      July 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Dilworth

      Dolly Tayulor... are you related to Jeantel .... you sound just like her... but not quite as bright.

      July 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious


      How do you even know what's right in this case?

      July 6, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  14. His panic

    GZ did panic, TM did panic but those who really trust in Jesus Christ God's only Son will not Panic. Don't want to panic? Then trust Jesus and you will not panic. The whole world will panic but not those who trust in God and in Jesus Christ God's only Son; they will not panic.

    June 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Dilworth

      Right, the religious person would just lie down and die .... and then they would be saved and all would be good... Sounds like a lemming to me ... one following the other off a cliff..

      July 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Lemmings really don't do that, you know. Snopes or the general internet.

      July 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
  15. A Poem Fan

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt this me.

    June 26, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  16. palintwit

    I'd rather be locked ina room full of squeaking balloons while chewing on aluminum foil than have to listen to Sarah Palin's shrieky, finger nails on a chalkboard voice.

    June 26, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • A poem

      If everyone was blind and we had no choice..would we all hate eachother by the sound of our voice?

      June 26, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • palintwit

      Another poem... Sarah Palin is an ass. Her shrieking voice can shatter a glass.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • PoofyMan

      Off topic a$$ lover. Go back to stocking kids.

      July 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  17. William Demuth

    I noticed something strange

    After the Supremes tossed the Black Folk backwards on the bus once again, I noticed some white folks actually wondering out loud if their "might be trouble"? This brought me back to several race riots I have enjoyed over the years

    Yet when they talk about the gay rights issues about to be decided, few suggest the Gays might riot?. In truth, I can not for the life of me envision one.

    The closest I can visualize is something akin to Mardi Gras, but with Nitrous Oxide grenades and glitter cannons.

    If DOMA is upheld, the gays may need creative riot ideas to make their own.

    Any suggestions?

    June 26, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • whole again

      bunnies! r u kidding m'gosh sister!

      June 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  18. Age of Reason

    ...Thomas' Jefferson and Paine both stated that "JESUS CHRIST" did not exist, therefore, HE did not exist and do NOT believe in him! The American founding fathers were , for the most part, DEISTS and NOT christians! Once again, JESUS did NOT, NOT, NOT exist!

    June 25, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • abby normal

      So Jesus did not exist because Jefferson and Paine say so? Why is your logic nonexistent?

      June 25, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

      Always turning and twisting hinduism, fabrication called Jesus, molded on personality of son of blessed Mary in vision of hindu secular, crook self centered never existed, but in hindu crooked minds of hindu Magi s, crook fortune tellers of Rome, according to their belief in hindu Mithra ism, savior ism of hindu, dark ages. No one as such, juggling Jesus ever existed, nor any one was borne with name Jesus.

      June 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Salero21

      That's such a stupid way of thinking.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • guest

      just because Thomas Jefferson said Jesus didn't exist–That makes it so? And just because you are an atheist that makes you a free thinker–give me a break!

      June 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Thomas' Jefferson and Paine both stated that "JESUS CHRIST" did not exist,

      References please. I don't think that is an accurate statement.

      Whether or not Jesus lived is moot. We don't need to question whether or not Mohammed lived, not to be a follower of Islam.

      The question is one of whether you believe Jesus rose from the dead.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio


      Please post the Richard Dawkins/John Huddlestun talk again.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      What evidence is there that Jesus of the bible existed? No evidence of miracles, tomb, or resurrection.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • Science

      Alert icon

      You need Adobe Flash Player to watch this video.
      Download it from Adobe.

      A Conversation with Richard Dawkins and John Huddlestun (College of Charleston


      Primate fossil believed to be world's oldest discovered in China


      June 26, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • One Flew Over The Believer's Head

      I think the point was missed, perhaps the delivery was a little off. The point is that this country was not founded on the jesus-zombie cult. That is all.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  19. His panic

    They all seem to be having a case of anxiety. Anxiety and hysteria can lead to Panic, Panic can be and has been the cause precipitant of many brawls, stampedes and riots. Even animals do Panic and go into stampedes.

    However those who really trust in Jesus Christ God's only Son will not Panic. All others like Zimmerman will Panic, even I can be his Panic. Trust in Christ and you will not Panic like he panicked.

    June 25, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Salero21

      🙂 😉

      June 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      "However those who really trust in Jesus Christ God's only Son will not Panic"

      If they trust in Jesus Christ, they sure have an issue going off to meet him

      June 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Salero21

      Sam is stoned! 😀

      June 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • His panic

      😀 😀 Looks like if he is also about to enter into a state of Panic. I even I can be his Panic, but those who really trust in Jesus Christ God's only Son will not Panic and will not be "stoned".

      June 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm |

      hinduism absurdity of a Christard hindu, savior est ignorant.

      June 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Sarah

      What a fucking stupid user name; His panic. Moronic. As the message is. Drop this name soon. You're a better troll than that.

      June 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • His panic

      Sarah is having an attack of hysteria she is hysterical.:-D 😛 😉 Hysteria like anxiety can lead to Panic, panic can lead to stampedes and riots. Animals do panic also but those who really trust in Jesus Christ God's only Son will not panic like Zimmerman and Sarah.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Sarah

      Zimmerman, maybe is you weren't gay you'd stop being such a lap dog for His Panic. Stupid fucking little cunt. The only reason you know anything about periods is because that's the only time your mother gets clean from your noshing at her y.
      And Panic, I'm not hysterical, you tedious wimp, buyt you are a big fucking troll that deserves to be buried next to your sainted mama. Do your part and off yourself, you nasty piece of shit.

      June 25, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Salero21

      I'd like to Panic. What does that word mean again? 😀 😀 😀

      June 25, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • His panic

      No way you are the true Sal, I just email him about this. He said you are the devil's child. 😀

      June 26, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • His panic

      Sarah is having an attack of hysteria which can lead her to extreme anxiety even Panic. Animals also Panic and go into stampedes, faithless people panic and get involved in brawls and riots. Those who really trust in Jesus Christ God's only son will no Panic all others will in time Panic. Trust Jesus Christ and you will not Panic.

      June 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  20. Apple Bush

    Without seeing his face she said, "Father, what if the seeds in me ripen before I am ready? What then? Father? He's WHERE?"

    June 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Then he weeped, "Ahhhh fukin’ hell Eileen just go and get an abortion why dontcha? We ain’t ready fer it babe!"

      June 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Like an ellipsis on a conclusion, it was the old whore in the bar that said it best. "...only put in however many there's room for, trust me sweetheart...."

      June 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      "Then the whore said to Zimmerjesus, "...and I don't mean my lovely lady paradise or my ass.....I mean.....your ass, if a gentleman pleases."

      June 25, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • Sarah

      Why? His shit isn't any more stupid than the crap you write under your billion different user names. Playing Christian one minute, atheist the next. You're a very prolific piece of shit troll, ZITNJ. Off yourself. Your son hates you.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      And now Sara, crying out in rage, struck out at zimmerjesuss saying, "Stop it your making me mad. STOP it hee hee.....I am supposed to be MAD at you creep! Mmmmmm I can't resist.

      June 25, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Sarah

      Whatever, Apple. Eat me.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      @Apple Bush

      I doff my hat to you.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      The games they played changed. Became more dangerous....more risky. ZITNJ found himself tied to the bed posts with the curtain open, circles cut from his night shirt to show off his privacy. Soon Sarah began, and ZITNJ suddenly snapped to. She was German.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.