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The Town That Banned Satan

A Visit to Inglis, Florida

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It doesn't take long to explore the town; it takes up only a few square miles. Captain Inglis founded the settlement before the turn of the century, and a few of the older buildings still stand. They are made, Risher later told me, from rocks gathered from the surrounding woods.

However, most of Inglis appears to have sprung up in 1956, the year it incorporated -- and the year Ed Sullivan finally had Elvis on his variety TV show. It's a pretty town, in a quaint, fish-camp sort of way. Boston Whalers sit in the ubiquitous carports of nearly every cinderblock home on every pine-shaded street. There are a handful of restaurants and bars, two hotels, and numerous bait and tackle shops.

"There are seven or eight churches in this little town," McCranie had told me. "It's always been a Christian-oriented town; people go to church here." And indeed there seems to be a church on every corner, most of them fundamentalist denominations like Pentecostal and Church of God.

Moore's house is only a few blocks from town hall. I had expected a buzzard-like, Bible-thumping old-time-religionist in a threadbare stovepipe suit and scrawny black tie, or perhaps one of the slicker types with a high pompadour, gold Rolex, and baby-soft, manicured hands.

Instead, a burly, bearded Pastor Moore met me at the door, cordially and firmly shook my hand, and apologized for not being able to see me right away. He had been surfing the Net all morning and had not yet gotten dressed when McCranie called to set up the interview, he said. It was hard to imagine the soft-spoken, affable fellow pounding a pulpit.

He seemed pleasantly surprised by my interest in his point of view. "The media doesn't seem to want to hear from the religious side," he said.

The Yankeetown Church of God was built in the 1960s. However, Moore has lived in Inglis for only two years. He grew up near Tampa and spent more than 22 years as a security policeman in the Air Force, followed by six years teaching ROTC in Ocala. "I have a college education, but it's in criminal justice, not theological," he said.

In early 1995, Moore "got a call" to the ministry and, he said, "gave my life over to God." In the Church of God, he explained, when one receives such a call, he talks to the pastor of his own church. After appropriate training, study and testing, Moore became pastor of the Yankeetown congregation, which includes "56 people last Sunday."

The mayor's proclamation originated, Moore explained, after he read a book titled The God Chasers, which includes stories about gold-rush pastors who, Moore said, would "stake a claim for God" in their wild and woolly frontier towns.

"I felt impelled to do something like that," he continued. "In our country, there are many people who don't know Christ, don't go to church and don't know God. Inglis and Yankeetown are a microcosm of the country," subject to modern problems like drug abuse and families destroyed by alcoholism.

"The local drug task force just arrested a man for having a meth lab in Inglis," said Moore. "Those are the kinds of things we don't want in our community, and we are determined to fight back in the spiritual realm. And if you believe in the Bible, you believe there's a Satan, and it has been proven that the closer we are to God, the better off we are."

The mayor and commission were doing what they could in the material realm to fight those problems, too, Moore said. "You have to address these things in nature as well as spiritually," he said. "For non-churchgoers to say Biblical principles have no place is wrong, but it would be just as wrong to say that all we need is prayer."

The local controversy surprised him, he said. "We were all surprised because it was just done to create a (more moral) atmosphere," he said. "Someone got a notion that this imposed some religion on them, but there's no ordinance involved; it was just a symbolic action."

"As a Christian, (Risher) knows how to fight evil," Moore said. "But the only people the proclamation really says anything about would be the Satanists -- people who actually worship the devil -- and the mayor has publicly said that everyone, including them, has a right to their religion."

It was lunchtime when I left Moore's house, so I stopped in the busiest business in town, a barbecue joint on the highway. The barbecue was good, and the waitress too busy to talk. The folks at the surrounding tables just shrugged off questions about Risher.


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