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Corydon officials search for plans to deal with hate group


July 13, 2005 | 09:05 AM

The Corydon Town Council asked town attorney Ronald W. Simpson Monday night to look for legal ways in which the town can prevent another disturbance like the kind that took place Saturday before a large crowd that had come to the town square for the Morgan's Raid Civil War re-enactment.

"This is serious business," council president Fred Cammack said after a discussion. "If these idiots are going to come back at every event, we might as well get out of the tourism business."

Minutes before Morgan's raiders appeared in town Saturday to do battle with the Home Guard, members of John Lewis's Old Paths Baptist Church from Campbellsburg staged a demonstration against abortion, homosexuals and "immoral" lifestyles, with incendiary, provocative posters and a graphic picture of a bloody aborted fetus in pieces. Hundreds of spectators had gathered on the square, and many were parents with small children, and they found the posters ("God hates fags," "AIDS cures fags") and picture offensive.

Officials from the Corydon Capital State Memorial Site and Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau asked the demonstrators to stop, move away or wait until the reenactment had concluded.

They declined and continued to quote from their copies of the King James Bible and encouraged people to leave their lascivious lifestyle, with the aid of microphones. Some women in casual summer dress were accused of being "harlots." Several spectators confronted the fundamentalists angrily, and at one point several reenactors pointed their long rifles right above the demonstrators' heads before their commanding officer ordered an about-face. A member of the sect videotaped the encounters.

Corydon Chief Marshal Jim Kendall eventually asked the group to quit using their bullhorn, move down the sidewalk and away from the reenactment, for their own safety, although the shouting continued.

This is the third time the Old Paths group has demonstrated on the sidewalk in front of the First State Capitol. The first time was on a Tuesday afternoon last month. And a smaller group was here briefly July 2. They also appeared last month outside the Justice Center, where Judge Roger Davis presides at Harrison Superior Court.

Lewis said in a telephone interview yesterday that he had wanted to bring his fire and brimstone brand of "street preaching" to Corydon for several years but didn't want to "raise a ruckus" until after Special Judge Davis of Corydon had ruled on a real estate dispute in which Lewis and his church were involved in Washington County. Davis's decision in March went against Lewis and his church.

Simpson told the trustees he will consult the prosecutor and police, study the law and other town ordinances that have been passed specifically to deal with Lewis's 40-member congregation (they appear in many cities and towns throughout Indiana and also Louisville). Simpson said one tactic may be to charge them with disorderly conduct, a B misdemeanor that can result in a maximum sentence of six months in jail and $1,000 fine.

Creating a parade or protest permit is another option, although it would be quite restrictive and would apply to all or most other events on the square. That would effectively stop many popular events and festivals, the council said.

Lewis, 61, said his group is now involved in 18 lawsuits in various state and federal courts.

Lewis said his group had planned to come to Corydon last weekend to "cry aloud and lift up our voices like a trumpet to show God's people their sins," but he wasn't aware of the re-enactment until Friday. He said he knew that the First State Capitol grounds would be "a good forum for exercising our First Amendment rights." When he heard that a large crowd would be in Corydon on Saturday, "that was just an extra bonus," he said. "Our object is to get out and get exposure to as many people as we can with the Bible."

Lewis said he hopes to accomplish several things with his street preaching: He wants to please God; he'd "love for America to repent and reject a lascivious, rebellious and blasphemous life," and he would "love to see the Sodomites go back into the closet. These people are dogs."

Twice a year at their camp meetings three miles from Campbellsburg, Lewis said his people decide where they will preach. The "main thrust" of his camp meetings, he said, is to show pastors and Christians how "to preach like St. Paul in the Books of Acts," and also how to deal with the police and prosecuting attorneys.

Lewis said his group will come back to Corydon "as often as we can."

In other town business, the council opened bids on replacing sewer lift station No. 7 at the corner of Dutch and Flora streets, a project that town engineer David Dahl of Midwestern Engineers said typically costs in the $90,000 to $100,000 range. The low bid, $84,940, was submitted by Mitchell and Stark of Medora. The council took the bids under advisement.

Other bidders were Barks and Ferree of Central, $111,200, and Infrastructures Inc. of Orleans, $108,720.

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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email