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Church protests pastor’s arrest

Above, Larry and Marine White hold signs in protest in front of the Pike County Health Department Monday afternoon. They were part of a group protesting the warrant for the arrest of Bishop Ira McCloud, of the Jesus Christ Church of God the Bibleway. McCloud's arrest was related to a septic tank issue on the church's property. (Messenger Photo / April Garon)

Above, Larry and Marine White hold signs in protest in front of the Pike County Health Department Monday afternoon. They were part of a group protesting the warrant for the arrest of Bishop Ira McCloud, of the Jesus Christ Church of God the Bibleway. McCloud’s arrest was related to a septic tank issue on the church’s property. (Messenger Photo / April Garon)

Ira J. McCloud, of Jesus Christ Church of God the Bibleway of the Apostolic Faith, turned himself in to the Pike County Sheriff’s Department Monday night after an arrest warrant was issued in a dispute over raw sewage on his church’s property.

Protestors quietly lined the sidewalks in front of the Pike County Health Department Monday morning and the Pike County jail Monday evening holding signs protesting the arrest.

McCloud, the pastor of the church, is a member of the board of directors for The Church of God the Bibleway, Inc.

According to Health Service Administrator Corey Kirkland, at issue is sewage leaking from the church’s septic tank onto adjacent property. The Public Heath department issued the first notice of violation on June 16 and allowed a month to come into compliance. The problem was not resolved a by the end of July, and a second notice was issued on Aug. 1 with a compliance date of Aug.16.

“On August 15 a request was made by the church in writing for a 90 extension in order to find a solution to the problem,” Kirkland said. “The extension was granted based on temporary conditions to stop the discharge of sewage onto the neighboring property. However, as of September 15 those conditions had not been met and a misdemeanor warrant was requested. All actions with this issue have been coordinated with our legal and environmental offices in Montgomery.”

The church is located at 7307 U.S Highway 231 in Brundidge.

“We are out here protesting because of a defect septic tank,” church member Ernetta Adger said. “Glen T. Walker is behind all of this. We are out here to support our pastor. He is a good man that loves the community, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the community. We are all out here and we’re going to support him.”

Walker is the environmentalist for the health department in Pike County.

“It’s unfortunate they are unhappy with us,” Kirkland said. “We want to find a resolution to this problem and continue to working with them. We wouldn’t handle this any differently from any other group. We wouldn’t have any choice but to issue a warrant.”

President of the Board of Directors of the Church of God the Bible Way, Inc. Clayton Cowart said that McCloud is not the owner of the property and therefore should not be arrested.

“Bishop McCloud is not the president of the corporation in the state of Alabama. He’s a board member, he doesn’t own it,” Cowart said. “He’s not the property owner, how can you arrest somebody who isn’t the owner of the property?”

Cowart said that because the discharge from the septic tank is on someone else’s property, they are not in violation of any laws.

“We’re not even in violation, violation is on his property,” Cowart said. “He won’t allow us to fix it, we’ve spoken to them, we’ve certainly tried to resolve and I think we’ve done the best that we know how.”

McCloud said they met resistance when attempting to obtain information about the issue from the city.

“We wanted to know the process, the directions that we could run the line to resolve this problem, and they kept holding back,” Cowart said. “This was about 3 or 4 weeks we had to wait and we could do nothing until they gave us the information.”

Cowart said that the organization would be pursuing legal action against the city of Brundidge.

“This is pretty wicked—these are the times we are living in, and you know, I wouldn’t suggest that it was a racial issue,” Cowart said. “People use the race card in issues like this, but I think it’s just ignorance. We have come to shine the light on this and we are going to make sure that those who are responsible pay the penalty for what has been done. We will not let go, we will lock in on this.”