8/25/2012 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
If you watch enough actual crime case programs on TV, you will see how our legal system operates. But, sometimes you will notice how it malfunctions, working against the accused and the truth. Innocent people are thereby sentenced to years in prison, or even execution. I shall list several reasons how this comes about, and why. In a broader context, l will attempt to point out just how malfunctioning applies to pastors, their congregations, and religions of all kinds.
Let us begin with the police and prosecutors. Sometimes, in pursuit of a swift solution because of pressure from the public for closure, the focus of investigations will be on a single individual. Other suspects are overlooked, intentionally or not; even the accused’s explanation of encounters with the actual perpetrator are dismissed. Sometimes, actual evidence from the crime scene is covered up. Police lie to those being questioned, in order to trick them into giving information or suspicions they might not otherwise reveal.
Psychologically, as the author Alice Walker says, "Policemen are victims of the very system they're hired to defend." They are entrusted with authority and implied integrity for the pursuit t of justice. Police are also experts who often trust their "gut feelings" about suspects and motives, although such intuitions have been proven to be just as wrong as right. As humans, they are capable of telling themselves and others not only what they believe, without evidence, but also what others want to desperately believe. There is always a possibility that they unconsciously seek promotions, and the adulation of the public in bringing a suspect in to be tried. Even if it means obtaining a false confession, holding back or burying evidence, or covering up mistakes.
The accused becomes not only a scapegoat for the actual perpetrator, but for the system. The innocent becomes a victim if convicted. These are some of the things that can go wrong in a system which is perhaps the best chance for finding the truth and justice for the accused.
When there are reasons to suspect that a convicted person may be innocent, by way of new evidence or shoddy police work, oftentimes, those outside the case investigate. The Innocence Project gets involved, or private investigators, and sometimes new prosecutors re-open the files, or DNA evidence shows the imprisoned could not have committed the crime. Interestingly, even after the convicted have been found not guilty, those responsible for the conviction often STILL maintain that they got the right person and did nothing wrong, or admit only that "mistakes were made." Admittedly, they would not have invested so much time and sweat if they were not sure.
But, what if the police are misinformed, evidence is held back from them, or "planted” by an unscrupulous member? What if they trust the experience of their superiors over their own gut feelings, that the methods they are using just don't feel right? That maybe they should do their own follow-ups on other possible suspects? Couldn’t this conviction on their part avoid a wrongful conviction? This might involve operating outside the system - not a bad idea, under the circumstances.
Prosecutors, with a case submitted before them, have to decide whether there is probable cause to prosecute. The presiding judge is, ideally, impartial, deciding what evidence is admissible to the case. A jury is selected through questioning potential jurors, to eliminate those who may be prejudiced against the defendant, or close-minded concerning the case. Those jurors are instructed to make their judgments based solely on evidence and arguments submitted pro and con the defendant.
The Defense will bring into question the evidence presented, the motivations of police and witnesses, possible contradictions, possible sloppy police work, and testimonies as to the good character and lack of motive for the accused to commit the crime, etc. In short, it is the goal of defense to present reasonable doubt or doubts to the jury in order to exonerate the defendant.
Every part of this tedious, complex, truth-seeking process exists in order that justice will prevail.
It is stated, "Justice is blind," but we might consider that it is blind to the extent that passion is blind. This applies on both the parts of prosecution and defense. The system is fallible, but the best we have, subject to appeals and openness to newfound evidence.
What has any of these matters to do with pastors? l have been careful not to write anything about the former that will not apply to the latter. However, don't expect to hear from any pastor the words, "mistakes were made." Whereas some members of our justice system will admit that possibility, pastors cannot. And, just as law enforcement officers may, in pursuit of quick solutions, succumb to the temptation of "the ends justify the means," and deceive themselves into creating a suspect, so pastors create doctrines. As police might refuse to investigate any further, insisting that they "got the right man," likewise, pastors insist that they have the truth, and need look no further.
All of the foregoing is listed here to bring us to some questions with profound consequences, based on a simple fact: A man's judgment is only as good as his information.
What about a jury's judgment? What about a congregation's? Isn‘t it only as good as the information its pastor gives it to consider? What if the pastor is deceived, withholds evidence, is corrupt, how can the congregation make any assessment of his claims to truth? If information is suppressed with no opportunity to hear ALL the evidence pro and con, with no opportunity for doubt, then there is NO way to find the WHOLE truth beyond a shadow of a doubt. With such deprivation, a jury or congregation has only one-sided claims along with its and others’ gut feelings and nothing else. It is prejudicial in close-mindedness, whether intentional or not. Such bodies have no claim to knowing truth, nor to pass judgment on those who actually take the time, effort, and sweat to actually, passionately, seek and find what is true and not true. (And where is the justice for THEM, with believers?)
Indeed, congregations lack the evidential backing needed to make claims to truth, without serious investigations. Their judgments are based on hearsay; as all religions are, and hearsay is inadmissible to evidential fact-finding. Such believers in hearsay are disqualified as jurists in the real world reality.
Here are some examples of withheld and covered-up evidence that believers ignore and should know before claiming knowledge of truth: The contradictions in their scriptures; the Council of Nicea; How many members have read the words of Darwin, the proofs for evolution; the arguments of Dawkins; or any book by Bart Ehrman? Have they even heard that their religion is derived from ancient mythologies? What do they know of Zoroaster and Mithras, or of the Jesus Project? What does any believer really know about atheists and agnostics, to pass judgment on them? In fact, do congregations have ANY real knowledge outside their own propaganda?
Ignorance, born of and supported by believing only hearsay, gut feelings and opinions elevated as special claims to truth, each with their own "experts," explain why thousands of sects exist, some at war with each other. There is no reason to boast of truth or knowledge in believing only one-sided propaganda, ignoring obvious evidence, or lying about it. Those who really care about what is true must investigate. If one doesn’t care, there are consequences. And victims. All the members of congregations are victims themselves.
Finally, we might tell the pastors, "Look how many innocent people have been tortured by the hundreds of thousands and executed as witches and heretics. How many millions have been persecuted, subjugated, and all because clergy refused to consider all the evidence, or witheld it from the public, and refused to admit they and you could be wrong. “ Is this not despicable, and the very antithesis of justice? And maybe, in private, one of them might admit, "Mistakes were made."
But I very much doubt it. Meanwhile, we all have to suffer the consequences, even today.
Isn't it time ignorance stopped being bliss?
Late note : Here is a perfect example of the consequences mentioned above -in Syria, right now, there are fears that after the fall of the Assad regime, "sectarian violence” will be rampant. Thus, instead of having the various sects going to court to hear all arguments to determine which sect is the true one, or if any of them is true, they will kill each other.
With thanks to the I.D. channel and Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, authors of "Mistakes Were Made."