The handcuffs were real, the sheriff’s deputies were real, and the reactions from church goers? Those were real, too, because they had no idea it was all staged.

What most people don’t realize is the arrests of their pastors are skits — part of a community project that several churches in the Akron community have begun called “Defending the Faith.”

To raise awareness, they teamed up with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and set up staged arrests of several area pastors. The congregations had no idea, and now the Sheriff’s Office is taking a lot of criticism after the videos went viral.

“You see people crying in the audience,” sheriff’s Sgt. Samantha Walker said. “They’re not believing this is happening to their pastor. Some of the looks the audience was giving us — I’ve never been so afraid in church in my life.”

Walker was one of the officers making the fake arrest look as real as possible, which is exactly what the Rev. Melford Elliott wanted at Greater Bethel Baptist Church.

“It looked really real, and I was kind of glad,” Elliott said.

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