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Utah pastors react to Zimmerman verdict

Published July 14, 2013 8:35 pm

Absence of rage • Emotions include sadness, disappointment and horror
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The mood during the morning worship service at Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City was hopeful and lively as Pastor France Davis preached about the Lord's goodness.

Trayvon Martin's name surfaced a few times in prayers for the slain Florida teen's family. But no rage or call to action arose in this predominantly African American congregation in response to the not guilty verdict handed down to neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman the night before.

"We're sadly disappointed, and we think that justice has not been served in this case," Pastor France Davis said after. "An unarmed young man's life has been taken, and there's a family that misses him and is tragically affected by that."

Davis, 67, participated in the tumultuous civil rights movement in the 1960s and was one of hundreds who marched from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., seeking equal voting rights. Blood was spilled and lives were lost.

"I'm concerned that we haven't made any more progress in our society than this," Davis said. "I would have thought that we would have stopped profiling and stereotyping and move forward — but it seems we are still there."

As for the freshly freed Zimmerman, Davis believes his first agenda item should be "to go to that Martin family and offer his condolences and apology for taking the life of their son."

While he respected that the court had spoken, Calvary Baptist Associate Minister Anthony Bennett, who is black, worries that unless Americans bind together, racial struggles could eventually "bring us down as a nation."

"These issues of race, these miscarriages of justice, we can only go so far until they don't work for us anymore," Bennett said. "They won't serve us well."

Theresa Novak, who leads the congregation at Ogden's Unitarian Universalist Church and is white, said Saturday's verdict came as no surprise, "but I was horrified nonetheless."

"It says something about our culture," Novak said, "and not good things."

All three shared concerns about Utah's Stand Your Ground law, which is similar to Florida's statute that allows individuals to meet force with force if they believe that their own or someone else's life is in danger. It took weeks of public outcry for police to arrest Zimmerman because of that law.

"I don't know what a black mother is going to tell her kid now — don't go out, and if someone follows you, don't fight back?" Novak said.

"People have been hopeful for more justice, equality and fairness in the world," Novak added."Then stuff like this happens and you know that things haven't changed that much — which means we have to work harder."


Twitter: @catmck






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