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Clueless students call white-robed priest a Klansman while he tries to get frozen yogurt

This is the risk when you have a generation dominated by “nones” and clueless about American history.

A Dominican friar on a prayer walk around Indiana University-Bloomington Monday night was mistaken for an armed member of the Ku Klux Klan, sparking a social-media freakout and leading students to confront the poor guy while he was trying to order frozen yogurt.

The Tab broke the story, while Townhall.com and Reddit filled in the background.

A resident adviser emailed his residents to warn about the reports of the KKK on campus, saying campus police couldn’t do anything about it because of the Klansman’s “first ammendment [sic] rights,” and advising them to just stay inside for the night or contact him if they feel “unsafe.”

The Tab said:

While the KKK has been active in the area in the past, it later became apparent this klansman armed with a whip was actually just a monk of the Dominican order in traditional white robes. The “whip” he was holding may have been his rosary beads.

After a picture of the supposed violent racist at Red Mango got sent around, RA Ethan Gill posted a clarification to Facebook (not public) halfheartedly apologizing for his own naivete and negligence but calling the viral reports “a hilarious miscommunication.”

Yeah, rising up with digital pitchforks against a guy praying for your clueless souls is a riot.

A person on Reddit recognized himself in the Red Mango photo:

Actually, I was there. We’d just finished our small group at a local dorm and walked over to get FroYo. We were confronted by students there and Father was accused of being in the Klan. Pretty crazy. I’m the guy with the blue backpack.

Townhall.com identified the priest as Fr. Jude McPeak, a campus minister at IU’s St. Paul Catholic Center:

Dominican brothers wear a habit consisting of a tunic, scapular, capuce, cappa, leather belt, and Rosary. Many Dominicans choose to carry a longer Rosary that hangs down the length of one’s leg–and I guess could resemble a whip, if a person had never seen a whip or a rosary before. …

According to one of my former professors [at the Dominican-run Providence College], who is now the Academic Dean at the Dominican House of Studies, it’s not uncommon for a Dominican to be mistaken as a member of the KKK while wearing a habit, which I think is sad. Their habit doesn’t resemble a KKK robe in any way other than the fact that they’re both white, and one would think the lack of hood and presence of a Rosary would be pretty big clues that the person in question is probably not a member of a group known for both hoods and anti-Catholicism.

The Tab snagged an interview with Fr. McPeak after he was exonerated in the court of campus opinion, and he was a better sport about it than I would have been:

“I help run a men’s group that meets in the Wright formal lounge Monday nights,” Father Jude explained. …

Monday night at the Red Mango … an African American student there approached Father Jude and outright asked him if he was a member of the KKK.

Unaware of the storm of distress signals swarming across the student digital sphere, he was at least able to set this record straight. “So you don’t hate black people?” the student concluded according to Father Jude.

The priest said it was “kind of funny” and that friends “have been teasing me.”

At least he didn’t have to go to a sensitivity workshop in response to stunning ignorance from IU students.

Read The Tab stories, Townhall.com and Reddit posts.

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IMAGE: CREATISTA/Shutterstock

About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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