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.