The Montpellier police change course for the post of chaplain | Local News


MONTPELIER — Days after announcing it would create a chaplain position for the Montpellier Police Department, the department announced it would not be working with the reverend it had chosen.

While the reason for the decision to reverse course is unclear, it appears to be related to social media posts the Reverend had made that community members said were not in line with city values. .

On March 9, the department announced on its Facebook page that it would employ a volunteer chaplain who would “play a vital role in providing spiritual guidance to members of the department and their families as well as those in the community who may desire such services.

“Chaplaincy programs have a secular focus and do not promote or inhibit religion: they provide unbiased comfort, support and assurance during crisis events. The program is simply another resource or option where the department can provide care and services to those who want it,” the post reads.

The department had selected Rev. Peter “Chap” Taraski of the Resurrection Baptist Church to serve as chaplain. According to the church’s website, Taraski is originally from New Jersey and served in Sweet Home, Oregon, before joining the church in Montpellier in October.

On March 12, the department announced on Facebook that it had changed course.

“In order to avoid any further distractions or conflicts within the community, Pastor Taraski will no longer serve MPD as a volunteer. I am extremely grateful to him for reaching out and volunteering his time to our department,” the post said.

Chief Brian Peete declined to comment Monday on the decision or Taraski outside of his department’s Facebook post. Peete said his department will put the program on hold for the time being and may seek to find someone else to fill the role.

“I would love to. I still want to do it, but I… I don’t know, maybe I’m doing too much too fast,” he said.

Peete said he wanted to provide as many outlets as possible for staff and their families when they were going through traumatic incidents.

After Taraski was announced as chaplain, resident Ben Eastwood shared the announcement and highlighted some posts Taraski had posted regarding Eastwood.

He said, “While I commend MPD for its intention to serve the community and the commitment of chosen pastors to the prevention of suicide and domestic violence, looking at its Facebook page, I see anti-immigrant posts and posts referring to BLM (Black Lives Matter) as ungodly… posts calling unmarried couples fornicators, and I have to wonder if this pastor represents the inclusive morality of the community as a whole, and whether or not the services lay counselors would not be better handled by a lay counselor.

On April 4, 2021, Taraski shared a post that called people who illegally immigrated to the country “illegals” and compared the way they are treated to how veterans are treated.

On March 30, 2021, he shared a message in support of voter ID. The ACLU said voter ID laws are an attempt to disenfranchise people, especially racial and ethnic minorities and low-income people.

On September 13, 2020, he shared a post that showed images of vandalism and destruction caused by anti-police protests with the caption, “This is not a world forsaken by God, this is a world that has forsaken God !”

On May 5, 2019, he wrote a post that read, “Tired of seeing food stamps buying Starbucks” while sharing a story about a bill that would ban people from using food stamps to purchase certain items.

On June 8, 2018, Taraski shared a post that read, “If you have sex and you’re not married, that’s not called dating, that’s called fornication.

Eastwood informed Mayor Anne Watson of the messages and Watson thanked her for bringing them to her attention. Watson said Monday she was not part of the decision to appoint Taraski as chaplain.

While such personnel decisions are handled administratively, she said she planned to contact Peete and City Manager William Fraser about the matter.

“I found (the messages) very concerning. Some people expressed that they were not in line with commonly accepted values ​​in Montpellier and I agree with that,” she said, adding that the messages were also not in line with his own beliefs.

Watson said she would not have backed Taraski as chaplain and was glad the administration moved quickly to remove him without needing her prompting.

Taraski released a statement Monday noting that the police department had not given a written reason for letting him go.

“With no written reason people have to assume whatever they want, and it worries me how minds can fill in the blanks so easily and assume the worst,” he said.

Taraski didn’t say by whom, but he did say he was verbally accused of being a racist.

He noted the Facebook post about immigrants saying, “My Facebook account had an old post from when all the people were crossing the border and being put in hotels. My post was asking about veterans homeless on the streets and if there is room for them in the hotel, if we have money for one why not the other? »

He said he was also told that his Facebook page had too much scripture and there were complaints calling for a separation of church and state.

Taraski said he qualifies as a Republican, although he does not claim that political party.

He asked, “Does a person’s belief now make a difference as to where they can serve in the workplace?”

Taraski went on to describe what a chaplain does, noting that the only time the pastoral side comes out is when a family cannot afford a funeral and he will provide services for free.

“In 15 years of service in different states and cities, I have never had a single complaint filed against me, I have always received compliments, thank you cards and good/positive letters of appreciation from first responders and of the community,” Taraski said.

He said the city didn’t approach him to get his side of the story, “they didn’t do any research or check any facts, they just made a quick decision.”

Taraski said he and his family came to Montpellier to be part of the community.

“I know Montpellier is a good place, I’m not sure what happened here and I really deserve to know,” he said in the statement. “My family and I have been through a lot of different feelings, I can’t identify exactly what they are, but I know we are hurting.”

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