SANFORD, Fla., June 7 (UPI) -- Clergy leaders from churches in Sanford, Fla., will have seats at George Zimmerman's trial in the slaying of teenager Trayvon Martin, officials said.
Church leaders will take turns sharing four reserved courtroom seats for the trial set to begin Monday, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Thursday.
The church leaders can then tell their congregations about the trial and to try to alleviate any concerns or answer questions people may have, the newspaper said.
"We, as religious leaders, can have a calming presence. We can soothe tensions," said Pastor Sharon Patterson, of Getting Your House in Order Ministries. "The main concern is that this is such a high-profile case that there are a lot of feelings, and there will be a lot of misinformation about what is taking place. So it's important that people listen to the facts from someone who is there and tell them that the wheels of justice are turning and to stay calm."
The concern is rooted in racial tensions in the community. Some people believed Zimmerman shot the teen because he was black and questioned why Zimmerman wasn't arrested immediately after the incident.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder.
"When you speak to the black pastors, many have stories from their congregations that they feel the [justice] system is stacked against them. But many in the white communities don't recognize that," said Jeffrey Krall, pastor of the Family Worship Center. "This is so they can see the process firsthand and then use whatever influence they have to share it with their communities."