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.