After Pastor Dies in Fire, Grafton Allows Church Tax Exemption

Peaceful Assembly Church Burning

Peaceful Assembly Church Burning in Grafton, NH – Photo Courtesy Peter Bosse

In early January of this year, Peaceful Assembly Church pastor John Connell died inside his church as it somehow set ablaze. The alleged cause of the fire has still not been publicly announced by the fire marshal, several months later. Speculation on the cause of the fire ranges from accident to self-immolation to murder. Given that the town of Grafton was planning to steal the property via tax sale just days after the church caught fire, it’s possible that Connell set the fire himself so as to prevent the town from getting anything of value out of the coming theft.

Regardless of the origins of the flames, the latest results were unexpected. The Valley News reported yesterday that Grafton has come to an agreement with the Peaceful Assembly Church to give them the tax exemption they have been denying the church for more than half-a-decade!

According to the Valley News’ story:

Under the agreement, the parties agreed that Peaceful Assembly “is a regularly recognized and constituted religious creed and sect” and that the town will abate the full amount of taxes owed on the property at 860 Main St., also known as Route 4.

In return, Peaceful Assembly Church board members agreed to make the building weather tight by December; shingle the roof and complete all exterior work except windows by December 2017; and complete all exterior work by December 2019.

Peaceful Assembly Church is the first church in NH founded and run by liberty activists and was a major influence in the formation of the Shire Free Church. This is huge news in favor of religious freedom – it’s a shame the pastor had to die to make the right thing happen.

Liberty Church Burns in Grafton; Pastor Dies Inside

Peaceful Assembly Church Burning

Photo Courtesy Peter Bosse

The founder of the Peaceful Assembly Church, Pastor John Connell was one of the earliest movers to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project. He was well known and loved among the liberty community and was truly a man who walked the walk when it came to advocating and embodying peace. He truly was an inspiration.

It’s confirmed by his daughter that John died today in a fire that burned up his church in Grafton, which had been in the middle of a court case seeking tax exemption. One body, yet to be officially identified, was found. It’s unlikely to be anyone but John, who lived on the property, and has not been heard from since. He will be missed, and fondly remembered.

John Connell

Pastor John Connell

John was known for his peaceful demeanor, infectiously jovial personality, regular attendance at activist events including jury nullification outreach, excellent guitar playing, and his regular updates sent via Porc 411.

At least as far back as 2011, the government in Grafton continued to deny John’s church a tax exemption, despite the fact that the Peaceful Assembly Church is an actual church building and that regular services were held there. Though he faced ongoing frustration with the town government, John never soured personally. He remained steadfast and of peace.

John was a true example to those of us who ultimately founded the Shire Free Church, which was highly inspired by John and the Peaceful Assembly Church. We will continue to carry on his message of forgiveness and mission of fostering peace in his absence.

Here’s an interview with John that Liberty on Tour conducted in 2011, inside the church:

“Weeda Claus” Reports From Grafton Deliberative Session

bobcRecently I shared a couple of news articles describing the contentious scene at this year’s Grafton deliberative session. I had wondered what the activists would have to say about the scene there and now Bob “Weeda Claus” Constantine has weighed in:

I am one of the unfortunate people that the town of Grafton, NH sends a demand note to, often euphemistically and oxymoronically referred to as a property tax bill by government apologists. Therefore I attended the annual Town Meeting or Deliberative session on Feb. 7th 2015, in an attempt to reduce the theft and rattle my chains, well aware of my forced subservient position within the coercive government food chain. Plus I know they’ll steal my home if I don’t pay their ransom.


This year’s meeting was again run sloppily by Susan Frost, a serial bureaucrat and the same moderator who proclaimed her “fairness” in her 2014 Town meeting preamble by quoting Voltaire. You know the quote, something like I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Less than two hours later, she had Brian Fellers, a friend and a forthright long time Grafton resident, arrested for asking the deliberative body to “examine his right of free speech”, that is, if you still believe in that kind of stuff. Or “being disruptive”, if you think Voltaire quotes sound good, but weren’t meant to actually be followed. No, I’m not making that up. Brian has stated the real reason he was arrested in 2014, was that he told the Police Chief prior to his arrest that he was there to cut his budget which had bloated enormously in recent years. Brian does not mince words. The cop has a gun. Guns, sadly trump words. Apparently Voltaire is an electrical term to the double dipping salaried and hourly overtime paid Police Chief. (more…)

Grafton Deliberative Session Goes Ten Hours, Moderator Allegedly Cries

GraftonLiberty activists in Grafton are making headlines again this year. They’ve submitted 20 warrant articles, which unlike Keene’s school board petitioned warrant articles, were not gutted at this year’s deliberative session. The deliberative session in Grafton was reported on by both the Union Leader and the Valley News.

The conflict-heavy meeting reportedly went to the ten hour mark and the moderator of the meeting was allegedly driven to the verge of tears, according to the Union Leader report. Activists in Grafton are definitely having an impact! Hopefully Grafton activists will weigh in at some point with a full report on the successes and failures of the brutally-long meeting.

Grafton Liberty Activists Target Upcoming Town Meeting

Here’s a fascinating post by freedom-hating blog Miscellany Blue that does a great job at summing up some of the really exciting things that will be happening at the annual Grafton, NH town meeting. It’s a testament to the power of numbers. With relatively few movers to Grafton, liberty activists have the state-supporters on the defensive, desperately begging for advocates of coercion to come to said meeting. Here’s the report from Miscellany Blue’s William Tucker:

The town of Grafton is ground zero in the Free Stater effort to move in and dismantle government. The group’s antics during last year’s town meeting — which began with an argument over the “Rules of Decorum” that prohibited cursing, name calling and personal attacks — made national headlines. “This year’s meeting should be even more interesting,” brags Free libertarianin an online comment. (more…)

Free Staters Win Primaries Statewide Despite Attacks

Garcia Phony Sign

Photo of hater sign, courtesy the hater’s facebook.

Despite various all-out-attacks against them, several Free State Project participants won both Democrat and Republican primaries statewide. One day prior to Tuesday’s primary election, Miscellany Blue published a handy list of several FSP participants whose election contests were being “watched”.

Of the seven races they were watching, four were wins for the liberty activists, including two democrat incumbents, Tim O’Flaherty and Michael Garcia. In his race for Manchester state rep for Wards 4-7, incumbent democrat Tim O’Flaherty received a solid third place out of five contenders. The first and second placed opponents only got 26% each compared to O’Flaherty’s 24%. O’Flaherty says that local haters spent a fair amount of money to mail flyers to all registered dems, promoting three other candidates. However, O’Flaherty says that what happened to him was nothing compared to the all-out-attack on Michael Garcia.

Michael Garcia (no relation to US Senate candidate Marilinda Garcia) is a Keeniac-moved-to-Nashua, who, like O’Flaherty won his state rep seat originally in 2012 in Nashua’s Ward 7. Local haters were caught by surprise in 2012 and this year mobilized against him with large signs calling the democrat liberty activist who moved several years ago from Florida, a “phony”. Plus, they were distributing an attack flier at the polling site. Despite the desperate push against him, Garcia prevailed, beating the last place contender by 30 votes. Garcia received 16% putting him in third place out of four, with the fourth place person receiving 12%.

The other races that Miscellany Blue were watching included Elizabeth Edwards who received a solid first place finish in Manchester’s Ward 4! She scored 41% of the vote compared to the second place finisher’s 34%. Manchester’s Amanda Bouldin (the founder of Shire Sharing) also made it through in a close race for state rep in Ward 5 where she finished second with 25% – the runner-up had 22%.

YOLO James CleavelandIn Keene, despite valiant efforts, James “Robin Hood” Cleaveland lost his race for state rep to political newcomer William Pearson, who in a Keene Sentinel interview claimed to be a “real democrat”, whatever that means. Pearson received 102 votes in Keene’s Ward 1 compared to Cleaveland’s 30 votes (23%). The good news out of this race is that turnout in Ward 1 was down from 9% in 2012 to 7% in 2014, meaning that either Cleaveland’s opposition did nothing to try to stop him, or if they did, any efforts they made to try to turn out the vote were total failures. (more…)

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