An Alabama pastor who hosted a “God and Country” event with Senate candidate Roy Moore this past week said he received death threats, and one particularly nasty caller said he wished the pastor’s children would get molested.
Jeremy Ragland, pastor of Bryan Baptist Church in Dora who also works in sports marketing, told PJ Media the attacks started the day after The Washington Post published allegations that Moore had sexually assaulted a teenage girl when he was in his thirties. Ragland had already planned an event with Moore and did not immediately cancel it.
“My first call was at about 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning from the state of Washington,” the pastor recalled. “His stuff was fairly plain: ‘I can’t believe that you would call yourself a Christian and dare support this guy. You don’t know your Bible, you’re going to hell, God hates people like you.'”
Ragland described this as par for the course, but he insisted the caller later crossed a line. “Since you’re so OK with pedophilia, I just wish your kids would get molested,” the caller said.
“When he told me that, I was literally in tears from anger,” Ragland told PJ Media. “By nature I like to make everybody happy and I will avoid controversy even to my detriment. I’m OK if people bash me, that’s part of this, but leave my children out of it. They’re innocent, they didn’t have any say in this, so don’t mention them.”
The pastor recalled his ex-wife urging him to cancel the event with Moore, to protect their 14-year-old son. The boy himself also asked if the event could be called off. Even so, he decided against it.
“I’m a protective dad, and I don’t want my kids to see these things, but I don’t want my kids to see a dad who’s a coward either,” Ragland said. “How do I tell my son to stand up for himself and stand up for what he believes in when he sees his dad cancel an event because he’s scared of what someone said on Facebook?”
The pastor told PJ Media he was conflicted about Moore when the allegations dropped. “I had reservations about it,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Hey, I firmly believe in due process, so I’m not going to do anything on the event until enough facts have come out.’ I quit promoting the event for a little while to make my decision.”
On the day after the allegations broke, Ragland posted a statement on Facebook. “After having horrible things wished upon me and my kids I feel that I need to make a statement about this,” he wrote. “Pedophilia is awful and anyone guilty should be punished to the full extent of the law. With that said we should not rush to judgement, we should gather all the facts that we can and then make an educated decision.”
At the end of the day, he decided not to cancel the event. “For me personally, there were still several questions hanging over things, and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell this man that he wasn’t welcome at my church,” Ragman said.
The pastor said had booked the event months ago, before Roy Moore defeated Luther Strange in the Republican primary.
The threats may also have pushed Ragland to keep the event in place. He recalled a “Facebook message telling me that people like me needed to be killed.”
“There was a ton of the Facebook stuff: ‘I don’t like what you’re doing, you’re a horrible person’ ‘Somebody needs to beat you up,’ or ‘You need to experience the same molestation that these women did, personally.’ I don’t consider that stuff more than just a keyboard warrior,” the pastor said.
Ragland recalled “the constant nagging of ‘You’re a horrible person because you support pedophilia.'” One image in particular, posted by a Facebook user named Joe Welsh, showed a young girl being silenced by an older man, with Nazi swastikas and the caption, “Republican values.” These kinds of attacks hit him particularly hard because his wife was a victim of sexual assault.
“My wife was molested as a child for multiple years, and I deal with her waking up crying from nightmares,” the pastor said. “It’s not something that I take lightly and it’s an accusation that bothers me.”
He restrained his anger, however, explaining, “The Bible says not to answer a fool in their folly. Their mind’s made up and there’s not a thing I can say.”
Ragland might not be able to convince such people, but he can protect against potential threats. The pastor told PJ Media his church set up extensive security for the event with Roy Moore.
In fact, a staunch opponent of Moore warned the pastor about an organized protest. “I will tell you that I was contacted about protesting and I point blank told them I was a friend of yours and know you [to be] a good Godly man so I won’t be there but they are coming just a heads up,” John Darnell wrote on Ragland’s Facebook page.
The security prevented such a protest, and the pastor told PJ Media that Moore’s campaign later used Ragland’s security in an event with Steve Bannon.
Moore spoke on Thursday to a crowd media reports estimated around 100 people. Ragland said there were 150-200 people, with about 45 members of the media. Many media outlets filmed the event, however, so it reached many more than just 200.
Moore’s speech proved surprisingly apolitical — he only mentioned his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, once.
The next day, Ragland wrote on Facebook that the event “could not have gone better.”
We had the eyes of the nation on us last night. CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Times, Al .Com and many more news outlets showed up to see what they thought was going to be a political rally, instead we had church, we sang, preached, prayed while all of the liberal networks streamed it live on social media for the world to see. You see the plan was never for this to be political but for God to be honored and I believe that he was. There was not a political rally last night just an old fashion church service that hundreds of thousands got to see.
Alabama voters will vote on December 12. Polling originally put Moore far ahead, but after the allegations broke, Jones has narrowed the gap. Ragland said local reporters predicted Moore would win — because of this event.