When It Comes to Cats, Acts of Faith Count for Absolutely Nothing with the Good Christians at Northside Baptist
"Le christianisme est le plus ridicule, la plus absurde, et de la religion sanglante qui ait jamais infecte le monde."
The survival of between twenty-five and forty cats who have lived at Northside Baptist Church at 1000 East Northern Parkway in Baltimore for the past few years has been called into question by the church's abrupt April 18th unilateral decision to have them evicted. (See photo above of the church.)
This long simmering dispute attracted international attention last July when the church ordered the cats' feeding station and a pair of winterized shelters removed. As a consequence, the cats were forced to go without their daily rations of food and water for two weeks.
Under a compromise brokered by Alley Cat Allies (ACA), the felines were allowed to remain after their feeding station and shelters were relocated to a more remote section of the property. Three battery-powered motion detectors that emit high-pitched sounds also were installed in order to keep the cats off of the Baptists' precious lawn and out of their flowerbeds.
Although church hierarchy ostensibly blamed the cats for fouling the lawn and flowerbeds with feces, their public pronouncements left little doubt that the Baptists simply hate cats. "I've got members who are not cat fanciers, and we're trying to be as patient as possible," pastor Reginald Turner said last July. (See photo of him below on the right.)
Deacon McKinley Watson was even blunter. "We were told we would be feeding them for our lifetime (and) I'm like, 'That's a scary thought'." (See Cat Defender post of July 30, 2009 entitled "Ferals Living at a Baltimore Church Find out the Hard Way That Hatred of Cats Is Every Bit as Christian as Unleavened Bread and Cheap Wine.")
The cats, who know absolutely nothing about bigotry, unwittingly have become pawns in a tug-of-war between the black churchgoers and the whites who care for them. The blacks resent the whites' encroachment upon their turf but none of that in any way helps the cats.
Moreover, it is highly probable that some of these unfortunate cats were cruelly abandoned by blacks, including members of Turner's flock. Their care and safety therefore are the responsibility of the entire community including Northside Baptist.
As if the ailurophobic declarations of Turner and Watson were not warning signs enough that this impromptu agreement rested on shaky grounds, Turner's refusal to sign it should have been the clincher. Rather than putting pen to paper, he entered into an oral agreement with ACA which he euphemistically termed as an "act of faith."
Turner now has abandoned whatever fig leaf of faith he once may have had and wants rid of both the cats and their providers. "My congregation has come to the conclusion that they (sic) no longer want the cats on the property," he told the Baltimore Sun on April 22nd. (See "Church Set to Evict Feral Cats.") "Eviction notices are being served."
Apparently, ACA and Northside Baptist have not spoken since September and a joint review of the arrangement scheduled for January never took place for unknown reasons. In fact, ACA learned of the church's precipitate action from the media.
"We had an agreement they would notify us if they had any issues," ACA's Elizabeth Parowski told the Baltimore Sun in the article cited supra. "We e-mailed him about a month ago to see how everything was going" but did not receive a response.
Even more important than the relationship between Northside and ACA is the one between the cats' caregivers and the church but, alas, media reports so far have not addressed that issue. (See photo below of a couple of the cats.)
While it is conceivable that this ruptured agreement could be repaired, that would not be a good idea. The cats need and deserve a secure and permanent home and it is unlikely that the mendacious Baptists ever will keep their word.
The only conceivable way that they could be enticed into allowing the felines to remain would be if ACA were to pay them rent. After all, Christians are every bit as mad dog for a buck as Goldman Sachs.
Watson slyly indicated that he might be open to such as arrangement last July. "They're only here to feed the cats and protest," he complained about the cats' feeders. "They don't care about this place."
Strangely enough, ACA does not seem to be especially concerned about the church's decision. "Although we regret the congregation's decision to cease support of trap-neuter-return and evict the feeding station and shelters, we are working with the church to remove them," it stated April 23rd on its web site. "More importantly, the impact upon the cats is minimal. They will no longer be fed and sheltered on church property, but they remain part of the community and will still be cared for by neighbors and volunteers."
It is unclear how this new plan will work in practice, however. Although there is a feeding station located on the nearby property of Greg Eames, it is doubtful that he would be willing to accept the presence of up to forty cats plus their shelters.
Much more importantly, if alternative sheltering and feeding sites are readily available, it is odd that ACA would have wasted its time with Northside in the first place. The devil is in the detail, however, and since none of the logistics have been publicly disclosed by ACA it is difficult to speculate as to what the future holds for the cats.
There may be other residents who would be willing to accept some of the cats but that would not in and of itself necessarily keep them off the church's property. Most likely that would require the church to install a high fence.
Since the grounds of Northside Baptist are considered to be private property, it is going to be exceeding difficult for the cats' caretakers and ACA to prevail in court. Therefore, if the cats cannot be confined to surrounding properties, part or all of them may have to be relocated.
That truly would be unfortunate because relocating a domestic cat is difficult enough but moving a colony of homeless cats is an almost impossible task. First of all, the cats would have to be trapped and that difficult job is made all the more onerous because some of them would have to be starved half to death before they would enter a trap.
Secondly, a new home would have to be secured for them along with caretakers, feeding stations, and shelters. If such a location is not immediately available, the cats would have to be temporarily housed in either cages or sanctuaries.
It therefore is not surprising that ACA and other knowledgeable rescue groups and individuals go to such extraordinary lengths in order to avoid relocating homeless cats. Hopefully, a few of the cats may be suitable for immediate adoption.
Even if Northside is able to successfully get rid of these cats, that is unlikely to be the end of this matter. Residents of the community are going to continue to abandon cats and sooner or later some of them are going to wind up at the church. It therefore actually might be better off with a managed colony on its grounds but, blinded by ailurophobia and racism, it is amenable to neither compassion nor reason.
"It's heartbreaking," Denise Farmer, one of the cats' caretakers, said last July. "It's completely unbelievable how cruel these people are."
The Baptists' glaring hypocrisy and ruthlessness have not been lost on Darlene Harris of the Baltimore City Animal Response Team. "These poor cats," she moaned last July. "This is a church and we want to respect that, but we also want them to have some respect for animals."
On that vital point, it would appear that Harris and other supporters of the cats are totally out of luck. "The trouble with born again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around," former longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen once wryly observed.
Speaking more generally, Christianity always has been more or less hostile to cats. "Le christianisme est le plus ridicule, la plus absurde, et de la religion sanglante qui ait jamais infecte le monde," Voltaire once observed.
While the legal and political wrangling continues it is imperative that the caretakers remain vigilant in order to ensure that no one from the church or any of its representatives are tempted to take the expediency of harming the cats. After all, Baptists have a history of not only killing cats but of carrying out their despicable crimes in an underhanded manner. (See Cat Defender post of February 12, 2007 entitled "God-Fearing Baptists at Eastern University Kill Off Their Feral Cats on the Sly while Students Are Away on Christmas Break.")
With hatred of cats being so virulent at Northside Baptist, around-the-clock protection and monitoring of the cats would not be an excessive precaution for their caretakers to adopt.
Photos: Northside Baptist (church and Turner) and Gene Sweeney Jr. of the Baltimore Sun (cats).