Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Covering the arrest of pastor Gregg Davison

Pastor Gregg Davison was arrested on March 8, 2013 for driving under the influence. It was a minor story in a small town and only covered by Times-Republican, a small newspaper from Central Iowa. I would have noted the arrest, but I don't think I would have covered it as a lead story. It would have ended up in one of my periodic bad pastor round-ups. The arrest of a pastor for DWI is news, but for me, it is not major news. Here is the story:

Local pastor charged with OWI

Iowa State Troopers arrested a local pastor for operating while under the influence Saturday.

Gregg Davison, 57, of Marshalltown, appeared through his attorney Wednesday after posting his $1,000 bond following his arrest.

Davison is a pastor at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and is the chair of the Human Rights Commission.

Police also cited Davison for failure to obey a stop sign and an improper tail light, both traffic violations. His arraignment is set for 1 p.m. March 19.

There may have been a more significant post in the print addition, but the online story was a simple tale. Still, I picked it up in my news filter and two people sent it to me as a tip. What brought the incident to my attention today is the editorial posted by reader Pat Christensen; Coverage of pastor arrest was unfair

I am writing in the response to the article which was printed March 8, regarding the coverage of Pastor Gregg Davison's OWI arrest.

I am extremely disappointed with the Times-Republican and how they handled the coverage of the incident and feel Pastor Gregg was treated unfairly. Every other citizen in the Marshalltown area that has been arrested/charged with an OWI, has a small notification in the Times-Republican included under the Marshalltown Police report section. There was absolutely no reason Pastor Davison's charge should have been treated any differently than any other citizen. The written article along with the picture of Pastor Gregg was totally out of line...

Was the coverage out of line? I don't think so. Pastor are community leaders. When they fall, coverage is required. Parishioners have a right to know. The public has a right to know. Why? Because it speaks the the pastor's character. How are we to judge others if their behavior is hidden behind pastoral privilege? The argument posed by Pat Christensen is the same argument used by people who want to keep clergy sexual abuse quiet. When a pastor falls, the event must be covered. 

Some readers may counter that the coverage was one sided. Well yes, by the nature of police blotter reporting, the coverage was one sided. The pastor has a pulpit from which he can respond, or, he can respond here by leaving a comment. My bet is that he will not respond here, and will color his arrest in his favor from the pulpit because that is what people do. 

A final note. We get to she Pastor Gregg Davison's character on display through how he handles the arrest and aftermath. If he is a good man, he will own up to his alleged poor behavior, own the source of the problem, and get help. If he is a bad man, we will see the excuses fly. If we see excuses, why follow this man t all?