Terror Drill Angers Conservatives
Executive Summary: Local Police stage an emergency drill where a right-wing fundamentalist groups storm a high school and take hostages. Right-wing fundamentalists are upset that the simulated hostage-takers aren't Islam fundamentalists, because right-wing Christian fundamentalist have historically only bombed abortion clinics, gay-bashed, lynched blacks, and burned crosses, and [url=http://www.pacifier.com/~dkossy/rainbow.html]taken hostages[/url].
Drill angers conservatives
By DAVID LEVINSKY
Burlington County Times
BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP — A police and emergency drill last month at Burlington Township High School has garnered national attention from conservatives angry about a scenario that involved fictional members of an armed “right-wing fundamentalist group.''
Although police and township officials said the scenario was generic and did not specify any religion, many inferred it described the school invaders as conservative Christians.
“Everyone understands the need for readiness exercises, but to come up with a scenario like this — it's very troubling. It shows a clear hostility toward religion,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington D.C.-based law firm specializing in religious issues and Constitutional law.
Sekulow, who also hosts a national call-in radio show, said the center has received “literally thousands of phone calls” from people upset about the exercise.
Opinion columnists and Internet bloggers also learned of the drill and leveled criticism at the police department and school district.
In a syndicated column published yesterday, Fox News Channel contributor Michelle Malkin decried the drill scenario as “jihad whitewashing” because it did not specify a threat from Islamic extremists.
The drill scenario was created by the Burlington Township Police Department and was written in an information packet describing the objectives of the drill. It specified that two armed men invade the high school through the front entrance, shoot several students in the hallways, then barricade themselves in the media center with 10 student hostages.
The written scenario used by police during the drill described the intruders as “members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the "New Crusaders' who do not believe in the separation of church and state. They also have a strong commitment in their right to bear arms.”
The scenario also indicated the mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one of the men was given detention and eventually expelled for praying before the beginning of class.
During the drill, the detectives portraying the hostage takers did not mention God or any religious figure, police officials said.
A joint statement issued yesterday by Burlington Township municipal government and the school district said officials “regret any insensitivity that might have been inferred” by the scenario.
“The scenario chosen was intended to be generic in nature and never intended to offend any group, affiliation or religious belief,” the statement said.
Public Safety Director Walter Corter said the scenario was created to represent “anybody who was an extremist and not dealing with reality,” and never specified “Christian terrorists” or other religious or ethnic groups.
“Never once was religion mentioned. That was never our intent,” Corter said yesterday. “The whole point of the exercise was to further enhance our ability to protect the students, faculty and staff.”
Corter said the publication of the drill scenario initially generated concern from members of the Fountain of Life Center, an Assembly of God congregation in Florence, but most of the recent criticism has come from outside Burlington County.
The Rev. David Boudwin, a pastor at Fountain of Life Center, said he felt the scenario description insinuated that Christians would commit violent, illegal acts if mistreated.
“It was just a bash on Christians, and I told (police) so,” Boudwin said. “It was a very, very poor decision on their part. A lot of people in the county are up in arms about this.”
The school district has also received numerous e-mail messages, according to a spokeswoman for the school district.
Corter said the controversy surrounding the drill scenario has overshadowed the real purpose of testing emergency procedures and police tactics during a school hostage crisis.
“Overall, it was a success in preparing our police, fire, EMS and school staff in case we're ever faced with a serious incident in the schools,” he said.