YouTuber disrupts churches, debates pastors for videos, Tennessee police warn

Authorities in Tennessee are warning churches about a YouTuber who recently visited an area congregation and “engaged the pastor and members in debate.”

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Tuesday that the warning was written after Drake Shelton, who calls himself “the Southern Israelite,” visited and disrupted a church in Dandridge, Tennessee, on Sunday night.

“Shelton has had a history of visiting churches throughout East Tennessee, engaging pastors and members,” the Sheriff’s Office said in the Facebook post.

The Sheriff’s Office said Shelton’s antics have caused “disruption” and sometimes included “recording their interaction and posting them to YouTube.”

“Shelton has carried a backpack into services in the past,” authorities said, though they added that “Shelton has not committed any crime during these interactions.”

The Facebook post, which is addressed to “safe church task force members,” has been shared more than 4,000 times and had nearly 1,000 comments as of Thursday evening.

Safety concerns at religious services have been heightened in the U.S. in recent years, following deadly mass shootings at churches in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina, as well as at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

FOX 17 reported that the Sheriff’s Office “wanted to be clear Shelton had not committed any crimes and the posting was informational.

Deputies said “security teams should consult with church leadership and have direction in the event (he) arrives to attend services.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.