Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Harper's Firing Of Chaplains Shady, Secretive

I’ve been sitting on this news story for a couple of weeks and I finally got around to crafting an opinion.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper (who is not blessed with the world's most impressive resume) fired two volunteer police chaplains after he and some in the religious community deemed their credentials to be faulty. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette blindly affirmed Harper’s decision, with no real, legitimate argument.
Rev. Lara M. Zinda and Keith Smith stand by their qualifications. Zinda answered some of the criticism in a letter to the editor in the Post Gazette.
Not once was there any criticism of the volunteer work Zinda and Smith did at police crime scenes. A cursory Internet search finds Zinda has done work with prisoners.
It appears obvious that there was a personality conflict in the decision. Perhaps Harper wanted his own pastor to serve in the volunteer position. The “vetting” (the buzz word of this election cycle) of the ordained religious leaders just wasn’t conducive to Nate Harper’s liking. What exactly are the religious pedigrees for volunteer pastors?
Do Zinda and Smith belong to a different religion than Harper and his spiritual advisors? Chances are they don’t share the same church. Zinda’s letter in the PG says that she lives in suburban Crafton. It would be best if chaplains were from Pittsburgh.
I cannot find photos of Zinda and Smith, so I’m not sure of their ethnicity. Chief Harper is African American. Perhaps there was a desire to bring African American chaplains onto the scene? Harper can appoint anyone he wants, but volunteers should be given more respect. It would be a shame if Harper is being forced by insiders to make the volunteer job a patronage, paid gig.
Perhaps there’s a hidden agenda in this volunteer position. There is something beneath the surface that we haven’t discovered yet.
The decision smells. There might be some jealousy involved. It does seem very ridiculous that two willing, apparently experienced chaplains get the boot for shady accusations.
There isn’t much coverage of the case, it’s not “sexy,” but it looks like two good people were railroaded. This should be followed, especially if a new paid position is created.


Anonymous said...

Oh please! I know Smith and Zinda and have seen them in action. They are self-professed and self-taught ministers. They've been booted out of so many churches that they had to create their own, running out of Smith's house with a total membership of four (including the two of them and Smith's wife).

In 1994 Smith was convicted for theft by deception, mail fraud and wire fraud. The news today, to no surprise to me, indicates that he has apparently not changed his ways one bit. Read it for yourself:

Truth is that Smith's wife has been supporting Smith and Zinda for years as they ran around town attempting to legitimize their loose credentials. Apparently, that wasn't enough for them and he chose a cowardly means of funding his lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...I love the conspiracy theories that crop up anytime there is a firing in the public forum. Simply put, anyone who really knows Smith and Zinda can tell you how full of crap they really are. The Church is self-made, Smith is a Con artist, and Zinda is just nuts...seriously. Profiting from anothers tragedy is not very it? Police Chief was spot on in firing this pair.

Anonymous said...

I can echo the above comments. My analogy for two of them is that they portrayed themselves as Christian Batman and Robin duo... chasing police cars and ambulances and imposing their way into victims' lives. Apparently they succeeded in initially gaining the trust of the police, which is more trust than I would have ever bestowed upon them. I'm glad Smith got caught and I think that this story will continue to develop as the police dig deeper into who these characters really are.

What is shocking to me is that their many websites are still up and asking for money in Smith's name. How can this be?

Mark Rauterkus said...

It is easy to put up a website and ask for money. That should never be
"NOT ALLOWED." To do otherwise would be unconstitutional.

I don't know these folks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, legitimate institutions should be allowed to solicit donations. No question. But the point I think the poster above was trying to make is that Smith is presumably still in jail or out on bail awaiting a hearing and he is still asking people for money over the web. Should he be allowed to continue to operate as a non-profit receiving donations while in the process of being charged for such a crime?

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about Mr. Leturgey's opinion on this topic now.