Muslims Fundraising to Open Full Time Mosque in Keene

Ernest Hancock and Will Coley Broadcasting from Shirefest 2017

Ernest Hancock and Will Coley Broadcasting from Shirefest 2017

“America’s Favorite Redneck Muslim”, Will Coley has made a major announcement! The host of Muslim radio show, “Call to Freedom“, and his family are moving from their longtime home of Tennessee to beautiful Keene, New Hampshire and they’ll be opening a full-time mosque in property donated by the Shire Free Church! Fundraising has begun over at Muslim fundraising site Launchgood with an $11,000 target, the Coleys have already raised over $2,000 with just over two weeks to go.

He’s calling it the Masjid al Latiff and Interfaith Community Center, (aka the MALIC Center) and on his fundraiser page says it will be the first house of worship of its kind in all of New Hampshire! Though it looks like Concord’s Muslim community is also making similar plans, Keene’s seems on target to open its doors sooner than Concord. As one of the founding ministers of the Shire Free Church, I’m elated to be able to dedicate our property to this historic and worthy religious purpose. If it were just a full-time mosque, that would dovetail perfectly with our interfaith church’s mission to foster peace, but Will has promised that the space will also be usable at times by other area religions of peace, such as the Quakers.

In addition to the goal of creating a Muslim community in Southwestern New Hampshire, Will is also planning to conduct outreach to the community and helping dispel the pervasive myths that many Americans mistakenly hold about Islam. When I was in jail for civil disobedience I took the time to read the entire Quran and studied with a Muslim who was in my cell block. I’ve been grateful for Will’s many appearances on my talk radio program, Free Talk Live. We’ve had him on for multiple segments of “Ask a Muslim”, where he fields all kinds of questions from listeners who know little about Islam. I’m excited to have him on more often live in-studio.

Will Coley Conducting his Ramadan Dawah at Porcfest

Will Coley Conducting his Ramadan Dawah at Porcfest

Many who have attended the Porcupine Freedom Festival will recognize Will as the generous man who each year has come up from Tennessee to serve food to the festival-goers during Ramadan as his “dawah” (Muslim outreach). In addition to his generosity, he’s a talented speaker and is currently completing his Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic studies training in the Maliki school.

It’s truly an honor to assist in this new addition to the Keene community that will hopefully attract more Muslims to the area and bring a new level of understanding about Islam to the community at large.

Do you have a few dollars you can spare to help Will and his family make their move to the Shire? Please contribute to the Launchgood fundraiser here (you don’t need to be Muslim to contribute). Here’s Will’s vision for the MALIC Center:

Keene Activism Decentralizes: SLAP Shuts Down, Real-Life Meetups Expand

KAC Logo 2010

The former Keene Activist Center logo

About a year ago, after five years of service and many good times (and challenging times) the Keene Activist Center shut down for good. Not long after, Free Keene blogger Rich Paul launched the Church of the Invisible Hand’s Society for Love and Peace in the same historic location.

This Summer, the board of the Shire Free Church Monadnock, which owns the property at River and Leverett opted to end the activist experiment and we parted ways with Rich Paul, converting the property back into a home for rent. It quickly filled up with liberty-friendly New Hampshire natives. Plus liberty-minded folks now occupy another house on the street as the Free Streets Project has officially begun in Keene and Manchester.

While some have mourned the loss of the historic center for Keene activism, ultimately the movement in Keene is now more diverse, with even more regular real-life activist meetups than has ever happened in Keene:

  • Social Sundays – The longest running social gathering of liberty-minded folks in New Hampshire continues at 6pm each Sunday at Local Burger (they accept bitcoin!)
  • Taco Tuesdays – This super-popular gathering was created in Spring of 2016 and happens each Tuesday at Mi Jalisco at 7pm.
  • Bacon Breakfast Buffet – Early risers meet up at Keene State College’s Zorn Dining Commons at 8:30am every Wednesday when school is in session.
  • Keene Bitcoin Network

    The Keene Bitcoin Network “Floating Meetup” Visits Lindy’s Diner

  • Keene Bitcoin Network – Twice monthly real-life meetups happen on the first Sunday of every month before Social Sundays and also on the 21st of each month at 3pm at a new location each month.

For a handy calendar listing many of the public meetups we have each month, check out the Keene Activist Calendar here.

In addition to the regular meetups, Keene activists are pushing forward in the area of online organization. While many libertarians are stuck on Facebook and are suffering from it, Keene activists have been successfully using Telegram and two-way radios for years for instant communications, plus we’re now experimenting with Trello for project organization. (more…)

Secessionist Candidate for NH Governor Appears on Manch Morning Radio’s “Girard at Large”

I spent most of an hour with Rich Girard on his morning show, “Girard at Large” at WLMW-FM in Manchester, bright-and-early at 6:20am on Friday. It was my first time on his show and we had a good discussion about secession, the state and religion, drug prohibition, the death penalty, and abortion. Thanks to Rich and his crew for the opportunity! Here are the show segments:

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2: (more…)

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.

New Bitcoin Vending Machine Launches in Manchester!

General Bytes

Manchester’s “General Bytes” Brand Bitcoin Vending Machine

After more than a year of providing the community with bitcoin in the Keene area, the Shire Free Church has now launched another Bitcoin Vending Machine, this one in Manchester!

Say hello to the “General Bytes” brand Bitcoin Vending Machine, now operational at Murphy’s Taproom! As with our Keene unit, the Shire Free Church’s goal is to bring bitcoin to the community at the lowest possible price, in furtherance of our mission of fostering peace. As a result, you’ll find the fee to be just 5%. (Though, it could be as high as 10% during a crazy spike in price – we’ve only had to do this once for a very short time in a year of operation in Keene.)

Murphy’s and the BVM are open seven-days-per-week, 11:30a-1a.

Murphy's Taproom on Elm St. is host to the Manchester Bitcoin Vending Machine.

Murphy’s Taproom on Elm St. is host to the new Manchester BVM.

Special thanks to Murphy’s Taproom owner Keith Murphy for being willing to host this new unit after the less-than-stellar performance of the previous unit located at Murphy’s by a company called PYC. PYC was not based in NH and now appear to be out of business. The previous unit in the Taproom was a Skyhook brand, which in my experience, is the worst possible unit to have in public.

This new General Bytes unit should be much more reliable, as it has a much higher quality bill receiver unit than the Skyhook.  Plus, it naturally comes in its beautiful yellow-and-black color scheme!  It’s also the second publicly accessible Bitcoin Vending Machine in New Hampshire, and in fact all of New England & Upstate NY, according to visitors to the Keene BVM and CoinATMRadar.com.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to connect more people with bitcoin at an excellent rate. Please bring your bitcoin wallet and give the new BVM a try, any day of the week! To learn more about bitcoin, visit bitcoin.com.

Responding to Vandalized Rainbow Benches, UCC Launches #onthebench Selfie Contest!

Jazzy Girl on the Rainbow Bench!

Jazzy Girl on the Rainbow Bench!

This morning, Christopher Cornell of the United Church of Christ at the head of Central Square in Downtown Keene announced a really cool selfie contest in response to  continued vandalization of their rainbow benches in Elsie Priest Park, just behind the UCC on Church St.

At least one unknown vandal in her sixties has been caught in the act of painting the rainbow bench in red.  She ran to her red compact car and took off.  The bench was subsequently painted rainbow by more volunteers, then attacked by the vandal(s) again, and so on.  The church has plenty of paint and volunteers.  Love will win over hate.

UCC administrator Mark C. Harris explained in a post to the church blog that the benches were painted rainbow this summer by volunteers and that they represent that, “We want everyone to feel welcome to use the park. This is in good keeping with our belief that all of God’s children are beloved, no matter who they are, or where they are on life’s journey. All are welcome, no matter their gender, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, difference in abilities, religion or absence thereof.”

Renee Kate and Jazzy on the Rainbow Bench!

Renee Kate and Jazzy Showing Love > Hate

Today the benches are rainbow and people who side with love have been invited by the UCC to visit them and take a selfie, and post it on social media tagged with #onthebench.  there are prizes, and the contest for the best selfie ends Saturday September 5th, at 10pm, which coincides with the end of the Keene Music Festival.

Speculation abounds as to the motivation of the vandal(s) – it’s easy to jump to a conclusion and say it’s someone with an anti-gay sentiment, but longtime readers of this blog will also recall the controversy back in 2009 when local entrepreneur Dorrie O’Meara launched her Mexican restaurant Pedraza’s.  Some people around town were upset because O’Meara painted her building yellow!  Certain grumpy people in this area seem to hate colors besides brick red and gray.

Ian Freeman and Jazzy at the Rainbow Bench

Take this, vandals!

Cornell said in an interview for Free Keene that he thinks the first time the the vandal(s) struck, the benches were fully painted red, but that since then the vandal(s) have only painted over the yellow part.  He’s losing track of the amount of times the benches have been vandalized, but thinks it may have been at least six times, all since the beginning of August.

Smart move on the UCC’s part to make this into a hopefully-viral phenomenon.  The vandals, whatever the hate they carry in their hearts, probably weren’t expecting these benches to turn into a movement!

The Shire Free Church is joining in solidarity with the UCC and all those who support love over hate, so I went out with Renee Kate and Jazzy the Studio Dog for a photo shoot this afternoon.  Remember to tag your bench selfies with #onthebench on your social media posts.

Stay tuned to Free Keene for the latest on this controversy. Last year it was chalk causing controversy, this year it’s rainbows!