By Dr. John Cooper
Dear Pastors and Church Members;
In April of 1770, James Ireland a Baptist Minister, spent 5 months in Jail for preaching the Gospel. The Culpepper County, Virginia Jail was a bleak place where torture, abuse, and insults were hurled toward the Preacher. Officers took him into custody at an outdoor service as he was having the closing prayer. His crime was Preaching, that is, conducting a worship service without authority from the State Church of Virginia. Following a trial at which he was not allowed to make a defense, Ireland was imprisoned. Ireland said that he and others expressed sympathy for his cause and were repeatedly threatened and persecuted. There were at least two attempts n his life while imprisoned. The first was an attempt to blow up his cell with gunpowder. Ireland said that the explosion, set off by night, made a lot of noise. It did some damage to his cell but he was unharmed. Another attempt was when the Jailer and the Doctor attempted to poison him. The Jailer and the Doctor admitted it. Another doctor examined him and confirmed that he had been poisoned.
Ireland listed some of the abuses inflicted on him;
1. Burned pepper and brimstone and blew smoke into his cell. He pressed his mouth to cracks in his cell to escape suffocation.
2. When he attempted to preach to crowds gathered outside his cell window, horses were ridden in the groups and listeners were trampled, threatened, and beaten.
3. Ireland’s friends and supporters were charged four shillings and eight pence each to visit the preacher.
4. They put drunken rowdies into his cell.
In spite of the persecution, Ireland wrote letters from his cell which he called. “From My Palace In Culpepper,” Friends supplied him with firewood, food and water.
We have not really experienced Religious Persecution in America. I have never been really persecuted for Preaching. I have never been persecuted for being a Christian like James Ireland and his followers. This is hard for me to comprehend such acts against Christians in America.
Another time Ireland was preaching when the State officials broke up the meeting. They threatened the followers with jail if they didn’t leave. The officials said,” stand with us to show that you are ready to comply with the law, and no charges will be made.” In reply the Baptists said, “we have heard nothing preached here but the Gospel of Christ, and that if we don’t have enough money to pay our fines we would go to jail”.
I don’t know how you feel about the current imposition on our freedoms, today, but it looks like history is beginning to repeat itself. The fight for Religious Freedom and our First Amendment rights have begun again. Where do you stand? Will you stand with Jesus or will you deny Him. How do you feel about going to Jail for being a Christian. Congress passed a law last year called the “HATE CRIME” which limits what you can say publicly about gays, homosexuals and other thing which are spoken of plainly in the Bible. Now, if you can’t preach whats in the Bible, is’n that a violation of your First Amendment Rights to the Constitution.
I am really proud of Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) who sponsored “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” September 26, 2010. Nearly 100 Pastors of approximately 370,000 Pastors in America took a stand for Religious Freedom. They are openly challenging IRS to take them to court. David Barton, founder and president of WALLBUILDERS, believes that it is necessary to stand and speak up to prove that IRS is violating their First Amendment Rights.
Rev. Cory Gordon of Cornerstone World Outreach, said, “We’re tired of the hypocrisy of these people because they desire to ensconce…and frankly they’re are doing it…secular humanism (AS) the new state religion of the United States of America in violation of the original intent of the First Amendment.”
Most people think that the battle for our First Amendment Rights has already been fought after the Declaration of Independence and that there is no need to worry. We are all guilty of taking our Constitution and The Bill Of Rights for granted thinking that they cannot be taken away from us. Since 1947, our pastors and Christian Laymen have done very little to fight to maintain our Freedom. I am thankful to God that HE has raised up about 100 pastors to challenge this hideous attack on our First Amendment Rights, aren’t you?
Yours in Christ
Dr. John Cooper
For United States House of Representatives, 4th District of Texas