For the past couple of months, a Tennessee man named Laddie Jerrells has gone to several churches in and around Smithville, posted a note on their front doors, and walked away. He was eventually caught on surveillance camera doing the deed.
Police have now charged Jerrells with more than two dozen counts of “vandalism, desecration of honored places, disorderly conduct and harassment.”
Let’s get a few things out of the way. Jerrells’ son says his father suffers from schizophrenia, so mental illness may be involved here. Even beyond that, what he’s doing is just plain creepy. Leaving a message with your thoughts about Jesus on the front door of a church could easily be seen as a threat without more context, so I understand why these church leaders would be freaked out. Hell, there’s a part of me that worries whenever someone sends me an email telling me to accept Jesus… because I wonder if there’s more to come. So I’m not condoning or advocating what he did. If you want to share your thoughts about God, there are better ways to do it.
Okay. All that said. What exactly did his notes say that caused this kind of reaction…? We have no idea. Here’s what we do know.
A Smithville man faces two dozen charges after investigators say he posted “blasphemous” and “offensive” notes on at least five churches and a radio station in DeKalb County.
“My first thought was, were we targeted?” [Free Will Baptist Church Pastor Bernard Houk] told News 2. “The notes that he left, targeted Jesus Christ. Every one of them said really bad things. Ugly things about Jesus.”
That’s incredibly vague. He could’ve posted anything from an article from this site to a threat about how he would personally re-crucify Jesus if He ever returned to Earth.
How do we get from mysterious notes that rubbed Christians the wrong way to “vandalism, desecration of honored places, disorderly conduct and harassment”? I can maybe understand disorderly conduct. Harassment seems a bit much — by this logic, we could just as easily say the church “harasses” non-believers whenever they talk about Hell. But vandalism? Desecration? As far as I can tell, he didn’t destroy or cause any damage to these buildings. He literally used tape to put up pieces of paper on doorways.
The charges just don’t seem to fit the only descriptions we have of what Jerrells did. Even if he straight-up threatened to burn down these churches, I don’t see how you can accuse the man of vandalism or desecration.
I don’t know if Jerrells is an atheist. It’s irrelevant. What he did was idiotic. But there’s a big leap between that and what he’s actually being charged with that doesn’t make any sense to me.
Neither does the fact that he’s currently in jail on a $36,000 bond.
That’s a lot of bond money for putting a paper with your thoughts about Jesus on the doors of churches.
(Thanks to Malinda for the link)