GLEN VIEW, ARKANSAS — A state trooper in a small Arkansas town is making local headlines and generating quite a buzz within his town after he witnessed a group of teenagers breaking into and spray painting cars in a church parking lot while its parishioners were attending a weekend barbecue picnic, and he decided not to engage the young suspects.
According to Coharski he decided to let the vandalism play out because the pastor at First Glen View Baptist church had recently written an op-ed for The Glen View Gazette in support of the right of government employees to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite the Supreme Court ruling last summer that states could no longer discriminate against homosexual couples seeking marriage licenses.
Coharski, gay himself and also an atheist, was so incensed that Pastor Bill J. Dickerdillya would support an elected official not doing their job, that when “karma handed [him] the gift of seeing some kids breaking into cars outside Pastor Dickerdillya’s church he decided to exercise discretion in how he approached the suspects. According to Coharski, he simply watched and made sure the teenagers weren’t planning a terrorist attack, that they weren’t “planting bombs or something” and he radioed ahead to the station, asking the dispatcher to have three cars sent to the three intersections nearest the church, where they could wait for the suspects and make any arrests necessary at the time.
“Look, I’m still sworn to uphold the law, so I wasn’t going to just let the kids go,” Officer Coharski told us, “they needed to be taught not to break into cars.” He continued, “But I asked myself why I have to be the one interceding. Why can’t their God — the same all-powerful God they claim is so powerful we shouldn’t anger him by letting us uppity gays marry other adults — save their blessed Toyota Camry from little Bobby Sherman or little Johnny Redmond?”
Officer Coharski, a veteran of 12 years on the force, said that “If county clerks and government officials can just flat-out refuse to do their job, so I can [he].”
“I didn’t know how, I didn’t know when, but I knew if I was ever faced with a chance to teach Dickerdillya a lesson, I would,” Coharski told us. He said that he “just figured that the people getting getting their cars vandalized and broken into surely were believers in God’s almighty power, which totally trumps the real law — you know, that pesky thing I’m sworn to uphold” and he “didn’t dare trample on their religious freedoms by doing their God’s job and saving their precious material possessions.” So he radioed for backup and “gleefully watched” as the picnic started wrapping up and Pastor Dickerdillya came out and saw his Cadillac had been “busted into.”
“I was raised in an atheist home,” Coharski said, “and I was raised to be respectful of religious people as long as they were respectful of others.” But, Coharski said he was “also taught that atheists are the ones most shielded by the First Amendment” because it “promises a life free of religious dogma.” He said that “people don’t realize what they are advocating when they say public officials should be able to stop doing their job if they think it violates their religious beliefs.”
“Can a soldier not attack the enemy if he’s against war,” Coharski asked, continuing, “Can a president simply not decide to declare a state of emergency where a hurricane has hit because he believe’s God’s divine intervention will save the citizens in danger?”
As the interview was wrapping-up, Coharski got reflective. “If we’re going to be an open and tolerant society,” he said, “we have to let the religious people have their opinions, and we have to shield the rest of society from them when they try to legislate based on their religious beliefs. We cannot let this country we live in become a nation of angry subsets of people who think they can stop being humane, mature adults because of their religion. That’s what the First Amendment is all about. But hey, I’m just a guy on the front lines defending your constitutional freedoms, what do I know about anything?”
“As soon as we’re all ready to go back to the time when we may not agree with each other, but we don’t have to treat each other like garbage based on our personal beliefs,” Coharski said at last, “count me first on that bus. Until then, it’s time to show the fundamentalists just how insanely they are acting.”