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Posted: August 31, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Man of the cloth wants a piece of the action

A man of the cloth by the name of Markel Hutchins is suing the estate of the late Kathryn Johnston for a half-million dollars.

Ms. Johnston was killed in 2006 by a bunch of rogue cops in Malfunction Junction, aka, Atlanta in a botched drug raid. Some of Malfunction Junction's finest executed a "no-knock" warrant on her home. The nonagenarian Ms. Johnston got a gun and fired when officers kicked in her door.

Police shot back and killed her. When no drugs were found, officers planted evidence that had been recovered from another raid. Nice. Fortunately, these slugs have ended up in federal prison where they have no doubt been greeted fondly by the inmates.

Ms. Johnston's estate received a $4.9 million settlement. The Rev. Markel Hutchins says he is due 10 percent - or $490,000 - because he served the family as "spokesperson, strategist, adviser and consultant" and that he and his staff "holistically managed" the public and private efforts that made "the significant settlement possible and yielded Mrs. Johnston's heirs millions of dollars."

A judge denied his request to keep the relatives from spending the settlement funds pending the outcome of the lawsuit Hutchins has filed and which will be heard later.

It is with a great deal of relief that I inform you that "Rev. Markel" as he likes to refer to himself is a card-carrying Baptist. Congratulations, my Baptist friends. Not only do you have Albert Mohler, the esteemed president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky., who thinks yoga is not "Christian" and that the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Decatur, the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, was qualified for the job, "except for the fact that she is a woman." Now you have Markel Hutchins, who thinks his holistic management to a grieving family is worth six figures. Your Communion Cup runneth over.

Rev. Markel was once Methodist. His biographical information says he received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from somebody in the Methodist hierarchy before gracing the Baptists with his presence. It doesn't say who anointed him. I only know it wasn't me. That is because I am not in the Methodist hierarchy. And if I was, I wouldn't have named this guy Dr. Pepper, let alone Dr. Divinity.

Somewhere along the way, I had this idea that preachers, priests, rabbis and all the other religious leaders were supposed to help us in our time of trouble, console us in our bereavement, pray for us when we strayed and give us divine guidance. I think it is referred to as their "calling." It is hard work, sometimes unappreciated and often stressful. But thank God they are there when we need them.

I'm grateful that Dr. Gil Watson, the World's Greatest Preacher, who serves as my spokesperson to God as well as my strategist, adviser, and consultant on the evils of sinning and the fate of sinners, doesn't turn the meter on while trying to save my sorry soul.

To estimate the total cost of the rescue attempts by Dr. Gil on my soul is nigh incalculable. It would probably equal our national debt with enough money left over to fund a couple of Congressional junkets.

Being my minister can be a challenge, to say the least. Just about the time he thinks he has me on the straight and narrow, I go barreling down the path of unrighteousness and he has to start all over again. The one good thing about all of this is that I pretty much guarantee Dr. Gil full-time employment.

Still, as much of a problem as I can be, I can't imagine my spiritual spokesperson, strategist, advisor and consultant holistically managing me through my trials and tribulations and then hiring some silk stocking lawyer and demanding 10 percent for his troubles. When the Bible talks about tithing, I don't think that is what it had in mind.

Here is a little advice for Markel Hutchins, Honorary Doctor of Divinity, from one who spent more years dealing in the external environment that you have spent on this earth: Suing the family of a 92-year-old innocent woman shot to death by the police for a piece of the action may or may not fly in a court of law - that one is up to the judge - but you are a loser in the court of public opinion because you look like a greedy opportunist. I am glad you are not a Methodist, brother.

That will be 10 percent, please.


Reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.

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