CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Some people around South Side Beverly want a parish there to dis-invite Father Michael Pfleger after he's been scheduled to join a prayer service and panel discussion aimed at the violence plaguing other parts of the South and West Sides.
Seven churches in Beverly and Morgan Park didn't expect controversy when they launched a campaign called "Thou Shalt Not Murder." The campaign is to make Easter Sunday in Chicago a day without killing.
However, some in the racially integrated community object to Father Pfleger's presence.
When the Catholic parish of St. Barnabas agreed to host an ecumenical prayer service and panel discussion on Chicago's murderous violence, South Siders of all sorts weighed in, especially because Father Mike Pfleger is scheduled to speak.
“He's spinning his wheels when he comes out here and talks about the horrible things that are going on. Everybody knows they're horrible. I mean the people out here raise their kids to respect life. Go where they don't respect life,” said Beverly resident Dan O’Shea.
The sharpest criticism of Pfleger comes from local police officers who would not go on camera. Several told FOX 32 they feel Pleger's been unfair to them regarding police-involved shootings. When Pfleger discussed all this on his Facebook page, some replied that Beverly and St. Barnabas parish are the "most racist in Chicago." One insisted the area has "more KKK members than Indiana."
The low-crime neighborhood includes modest, multi-family apartment units and large, million-dollar homes. It is one of the only South Side communities to be integrated and relatively stable for more than a quarter century. The pastor at Barnabas told FOX 32 his parishioners want the upcoming event to reflect that.
“The feedback I'm getting is that this is a wonderful thing. But they want it to be unifying. They don't want it to be division,” said Rev. William Malloy, Pastor of St. Barnabas Parish.
Father Bill Malloy joined with a group of local Protestant leaders to call for Easter Sunday to be a day without killing in Chicago. Besides Pfleger, Fr. David Kelly and Police Deputy Chief Eugene Williams will speak. The movement is named after the Biblical commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Murder."
“It is possible not to pick up a handgun, not to pick up a weapon and take the life of another,” said Rev. Dennis Langdon of Morgan Park United Methodist.
“If we don't start to think ourselves as being inter-connected, then I don't think we solve some of the bigger problems in this city,” said Scott Smith, Parishioner at Saint Barnabas.
The parish church seats about 1,200 people, and Pastor Bill Malloy says there may be an upside to the uproar. He expects the church may be packed on Feb. 27th when the prayer service and panel discussion takes place that evening.