A US pastor in Connecticut has resigned on Thursday after berating police officers for arresting a man who took refuge inside the church after beating his mother.
Rev. Care Goodstal Spinks obstructed a police car Tuesday and tried to force East Haven police officer to release Ryan Champlin, whom they arrested in Old Stone Church for attacking his mother and beating her head with a phone until the device broke, according to The Maven. Church leadership thanked police officers for their swift and calm actions and announced Thursday via Facebook that Spinks resigned in light of her actions and her differences with the wider congregation.
“The behavior and language on video by the Intentional Interim Pastor, do not necessarily express the opinions of the wider congregation. We have accepted a letter of resignation from the interim pastor -effective immediately,” the church’s Facebook post read.
“We want to thank the East Haven Police Department, including Lt. Murgo, for their calm yet swift actions on Tuesday,
all while keeping in mind that school was in session, and the safety of students and staff was top priority,” the post added.
Church leadership also said in the post that Champlin was a “known parishioner” and that the church staff who let him in to the building neither knew about the allegations against him nor did they feel threatened by him while he was in the church.
Officers determined after responding to Champlin’s 59-year-old mother’s call that she had sustained serious injuries from Champlin’s attack. She told officers that her 34-year-old son assaulted her in the course of an argument over the fact that he lived at her house free of charge. Police received a tip that Champlin had taken refuge inside Old Stone Church and drove there to arrest him for felony domestic violence assault. Church employees welcomed officers inside, who then located and arrested Champlin in an upstairs church office without incident.
Spinks arrived shortly afterward, blocked the police car carrying Champlin with her Mini Cooper, asserted that officers had no authority to arrest someone taking refuge inside a church and demanded that they release him into her custody.
“This is a church,” Spinks told the officer. “We’re protected by federal law, and state law. It is a place of sanctuary and refuge.”
Spinks argued that those seeking refuge inside a church are protected by law. There is no such federal law protecting criminal suspects from arrest inside a church. The officer explained that Champlin was wanted for domestic abuse and assault. His argument did not dissuade Spinks.
“And you realize that you see on the news all the time, people taking sanctuary, refuge in a church, and even the federal law can’t come in and get them, because this place is a protected place,” Spinks said.
Spinks was likely referencing cases of illegal immigrants who have taken refuge from deportation inside churches. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers do not make arrests inside churches as a matter of policy, since they list churches as a sensitive area, but no law technically prevents them from making arrests in said “sensitive locations.”
Rabbi Herbert Brockman, a local religious leader, denounced Spinks’ actions and argument, saying that protecting those who commit felonies directly contradicted the purpose of the sanctuary movement and ICE’s agreement with places of worship. Brockman explained that East Haven churches willing to house illegal immigrants have agreed that those seeking shelter must not have committed any felonies.
“When I first heard about what she did, I was really upset because this has nothing at all to do with what the sanctuary effort is about,” Brockman told East Haven Register. “We support the police and I’m concerned what happened in East Haven gives us a bad name.”
Spinks continued to argue and refused to move her car until officers finally brought the situation to a calm conclusion and left with Champlin in their custody.
“While the East Haven Police Department respects the sanctity of a church, we also owe it to victims of domestic violence to apprehend suspects who commit violent felony assaults,” Lt. Joseph M. Murgo, who Spinks berated, said in a statement, according to The Maven. “Officers were also cognizant of the fact that children attending day care might have been exposed to a fleeing felony suspect within the interior of the church. We feel that the decision to enter the church was the correct one in this particular situation.”
Church leaders said in their Facebook statement they hoped to continue their good relations with the local police department.