The hashtag #BlackPastors for the legal team defending Rachel Canning, the 19-year-old girl who has withdrawn from her family, was trending on Friday.
On Thursday, Arbery, the lawyer representing Canning, a “disturbed young woman,” complained to the board of the Bergen County Bar Association.
A letter from the Bergen County Bar Association’s board of governors to an attorney for Rachel Canning, seen by CNN.
At issue was a performance of the Holy Bible at the church of the Bergen County Bar Association. It apparently angered Arbery so much that he said his client would not take part in a similar event in future.
The bar association vice president, Christopher T. Tachner, told CNN that the board of governors voted to issue a formal protest to Arbery. Tachner said he was not sure why his letter was shared publicly, but that it would go to the NJ State Bar Association.
Some community members responded angrily after reading about the letter online.
“The community as a whole has been insulted,” Bergen County Bar Association member Evelyn Rutter told CNN. “We never in our lifetime have had this kind of blatant racism.”
Others said the letter could have been misinterpreted.
“Is your client a nobody and needs our support? Seems like a productive avenue to discuss the issue rather than to discredit a powerful community leader,” someone who identified themselves as the head of Black Law Students and said they were attending a conference wrote on Facebook.
“We get you didn’t want a performance of the Holy Book as the Bar Board saw fit. But then how dare you just make it easy for us to perform that in the future?”
My book club thanks Rachel Canning for inspiring us to read! https://t.co/WXL4JnlwWp pic.twitter.com/fjotNmH9fR — Eric the Barbarian (@UnauthorizedHobby) August 18, 2017
The Bergen County Bar Association has not responded to CNN’s request for comment. Arbery could not be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for New Jersey’s state Attorney General’s office also did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Canning has left her parents’ home after an argument about household chores. A week later, she enlisted the aid of the Bergen County Public Defender’s Office and faced a court hearing. Canning’s lawyer has said Canning would need psychological treatment and maybe even jail time if she remained in the home with her parents.
“That’s not a happy ending that can be wished upon someone,” Arbery told The New York Times, adding: “If she’s still there when she’s 20 years old, I’m in a hospital.”
“Either do the right thing, or go home,” Arbery said.
Canning’s father, Sean Canning, told The Daily News that his daughter would not be in trouble for attending the performance, and that religious groups were invited to speak at the bar association meeting.
“Those few words that were said to our church had absolutely nothing to do with Rachel,” he told the newspaper.