“BEHIND THE CURTAIN” is a backstage glimpse of of our experiences shooting the documentary ‘Refusing My Religion’. We look forward to sharing content as the project evolves.
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Investigated By Cops With Brother Jerry DeWitt In Rosepine, La.
Life is hard for an atheist in DeRidder, Louisiana. Especially if you’re a former pastor who “came out” and is now the ONLY open atheist there, a town of ten thousand with nearly as many churches. Marc and I grasped the gravity of living here for a nonbeliever when we were filming our documentary REFUSING MY RELIGION with Clergy Project member (and its first “graduate”) Jerry DeWitt. Driving peacefully through the unassuming town in January 2013, Jerry guided us to his high school where we pulled over for a figurative stroll down adolescent lane, camera rolling as we sat in our rented car. While Jerry reminisced about the sexual follies to which we all fell prey in high school, we noticed an elderly man repeatedly riding past us on a four-wheeler about 20 yards away. City slicker that I am, I just thought this gentleman was mowing his lawn or going for a late-afternoon joy ride. But by the fourth time he cruised past us, the intrusive noise caught our attention. So after about 15 minutes parked there, we took off and went to visit Jerry’s elementary school a mile away to talk about how children are indoctrinated as a matter of course here and throughout the Bible belt. A few minutes later as we stood outside it, about to film Jerry again, a police SUV suddenly barreled off the roadway and up onto the school’s grassy sidewalk a few feet from where we were standing. A pancake-stack of a man lumbers out of the SUV and approaches us, uniformed and armed. “I got a call from an off-duty sheriff’s deputy about some folks filming something and he thought I oughta go investigate it, so that’s what I’m doing, investigating what y’all are up to.” In his soothing, quintessentially southern manner, Jerry ably takes the reigns and asks how “So-and-so” is doing today. Officer Flapjacks drawls, “Oh, he’s doin’ just fine.” Turns out, So-and-so is the chief-of-police in DeRidder, and Jerry obviously knows him. But that doesn’t seem to impress this implacable agent of law enforcement. So Jerry sallies forth, “We’re just shooting a film, they’re kinda following me around, ya know, and I was tellin’ ‘em a story. I live here, lived here my whole life. I’m Jerry DeWitt.” The stoic pillar of crime prevention, there to humbly serve and protect the citizens of DeRidder from all forms of menace and danger, without looking any of us in the eye, simply snarls at Jerry: “Oh, I know who you are…” After we finished our shoot at the second school, we got back in the car and Marc said, “I’ve never seen a cop before who wouldn’t look you in the eye. Usually they look dead at you to see if you’re high, or messed up in the head, whatever. But that guy, he wouldn’t even look at me.” Maybe Officer Flapjacks understood that he and DeRidder were not being very Christian in their treatment of Jerry.