The protracted incident at Mount Carmel will be construed by some as a matter of state and religion clashing, but that is not the case.

Federal authorities had many reasons to investigate Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh. Religion was only a peripheral factor in each. The concern was that laws were being broken.

Of course, religion has weighed heavily, especially since Howell exploited the radio airwaves to preach a religious message.

Ironically, religion has also entered into the analyses about “why Waco?” (Forget the fact that the commune is not in Waco.) Some far-displaced observers appear to imply that Waco, being a very religious town, is fertile ground for apocryphal atrocities.

Ultimately, that’s a slur against all believers – guilt by the most vague of associations.

Waco is not alone in being smeared by association. Others have been harmed worse:

  • The Seventh-day Adventist Church, from which Howell and some of the Branch Davidians broke away. The Adventists hold no responsibility for what one former Adventist did.
  • Other Davidians, who’ve lived peaceful, anonymous lives – some in the city of Waco, hundreds of others elsewhere in the world. They bear no responsibility for what one individual or an isolated group might have done.

How people of faith exercise their religion is their own business unless it harms others or threatens others. And no one should suffer simply because of having affiliated with a certain faith or theology. Unfortunately, look at the world and see genocide in the name of religion or in the name of striking out at the religious.

It’s a tragedy that Branch Davidians felt, for whatever reason, the need to take up arms when federal authorities came to serve their leader a lawful warrant. Even more tragic is the fact that innocents became part of the bloody incident.

Sadly, there are a few who will want to pin this tragedy onto the collars of other innocent bystanders, and among those bystanders are the people of Waco.

Waco’s people have responded magnificently in helping authorities deal with the crisis. Good people. Good town.

If there’s anything Waco can get out of this sad incident it is a sense that all people of faith need to work together, pay less heed to what divides them and more to what unites them.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part Two appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

Read the accounts of April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.