An Incredible Story of Redemption

Sep 11, 2020

Liberty Counsel appeared in court Wednesday to defend Pastor Ken Graves and Calvary Chapel of Bangor, against ME Gov. Janet Mills' outrageous anti-church orders. Read on to learn more about the case, what happened in court and the incredible story of this very special church. - Mat

Long before ME Gov. Janet Mills decided to illegally and unconstitutionally attack the churches of her state, Ken Graves was raised up as a warrior for the Lord. Born in what the pastor describes as one of the poorest parts of the state, Ken was the son of a hard-core alcoholic whose addiction brought heartbreaking violence upon the young family. Graves’ father eventually left, leaving yet more poverty and pain in his wake.

Through God’s grace, in his teens Ken stumbled across a copy of “The Cross and the Switchblade,” a biographical account of David Wilkerson’s Christian outreach to drug-addicted gang members. God’s abundant love described in that book struck a chord with Ken, freeing him to see beyond his own pain and to get beyond his father’s bondage. With that, young Ken knew exactly what his life work would be — he was called to be a pastor, and he wanted to minister to alcoholics and drug abusers.

At the age of 16, Ken dropped out of high school, travelled to the nearest of David Wilkerson’s Teen Challenge facilities and insisted they take him in. The request was unusual because Ken was not an addict, not a gang member and not homeless. Instead, he was a determined teenager who heard the Lord’s call on his life — to share the good news of God’s redeeming love with those who, like his father, suffered under the torment of addiction.

Ken Graves moved into that Teen Challenge facility and earned an apprenticeship under some of the finest Christian leaders of the time. At 23, Pastor Ken Graves began a church with a home Bible study, then a jail ministry to reach “his” people — those with broken homes, broken faith and hurting, often addicted souls — and many who had never been exposed to the Word of God. These people needed the kind of redemption that only God’s care can accomplish.

Today, Calvary Chapel’s ministry covers the entire community. But on campus, there are residential homes for recovering men and women. And although the church serves the needs of the greater community, the heart of the ministry is the yearlong live-in recovery program for addicts seeking rescue. At any given time, Calvary Chapel houses 48 desperate people “relearning life” through the lens of the Cross.

But the COVID pandemic brought trouble to Calvary Chapel.

When Gov. Janet Mills issued her stay-at-home order, she made many exceptions, but none for religious assembly. NO worship was allowed under the governor’s initial order, no matter what. Yet at the very time Gov. Mills banned Calvary Chapel from assembling, she deemed liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries to be “essential.”

The substances Pastor Ken was helping people overcome were deemed essential, while the one thing that could save those addicts — the church — was ordered closed!

Gov. Mills’ orders allowed secular services in the same church building with the same people but banned religious services. The men and women could still meet for substance abuse support, but could they worship? The yearlong program includes studying the entire Bible, prayer and worship.

Risking punishment, Ken would not secularize the program and stop the essential reason the recovery ministry works.

Gov. Mills was clear that churches must close. But her view of “church” is limited. It did not take into account Calvary Chapel of Bangor’s extended ministries. If the substance abuse program has to be secular, who will decide what is religious? If only those in the substance abuse program can worship, then Gov. Mills has divided the church.

Eventually, Gov. Mills allowed 10 people to assemble and then 50, no matter the size of the building. But Pastor Graves has 48 recovering addicts and a full congregation that need their church open.

Pastor Ken Graves determined he’d stay open — for all his flock — even if the governor herself tried to bar the doors. He answered to God, not a misguided governor!

Despite threats of criminal charges, fines and even potential imprisonment, Pastor Ken Graves is continuing to preach, and Calvary Chapel is fighting to remain open (with social distancing and sanitizing).

The flock is the family and Pastor Graves is their earthly shepherd. He has been there at the birth of a child, performed that person’s wedding, and has been there at the birth of the next generation. He cares far more for his flock than a politician possibly could.

Like so many of the other pastors we are representing in our five (soon to be six) federal lawsuits against lawless governors, Pastor Ken knows that at any time he can be thrown in jail for serving God’s people. He’ll keep preaching.

Ken Graves’ day in court.

On Wednesday, September 9, Liberty Counsel appeared before the Court of Appeals on behalf of Pastor Graves and Calvary Chapel.

Under Janet Mills’ orders, social services can remain open... but only if they don’t mention the Word of God or contain religious content.

In Maine, one can offer employment counseling in the church building but not Bible studies. One can feed the stomach but not the soul. One can offer shelter for the body, but not shelter under the wings of God. A church can perform non-religious services to an unlimited number of people. But the moment a Bible is opened — even as part of a life skills, food, shelter or addiction program — the entire operation violates Gov. Mills’ illegal orders.

While we do not know how or when the court will rule, one judge’s questions to the State of Maine were telling... as was the attorney’s response...

The judge asked the Attorney General lawyer if the governor’s order allowed people at “essential businesses” to gather at the beginning of their shift to review their tasks for the day. The governors’ attorney said, “yes.”

The judge then asked what would happen if, during that same meeting, a morally uplifting message was delivered. The attorney responded, “I was afraid of hypothetical questions like this.” He never did answer the question because he couldn’t — without admitting the governor was wrong.

The fact that Governor Mills would allow many exemptions to all sorts of services, but ONLY if those services do not include worship, is proof that shutdown orders discriminate against churches and people of faith.

I am deeply honored to stand with Pastor Graves, and all the other pastors we are representing. And I am equally honored and thankful for your continuing support. YOUR generosity means that NONE of these fearless, yet humble, pastors will go without a legal defense, no matter how long these cases take to resolve. These pastors, thanks to you, are not fighting alone.

The challenge grant that effectively DOUBLES the impact of your donation will expire soon. Please take this opportunity to make your best possible donation NOW so YOUR IMPACT will be doubled. Please help us make certain that fearless pastors like Ken Graves can continue their God-given, constitutionally protected ministries in this challenging time.

In Christ,

Mat Staver,
Founder and Chairman
Liberty Counsel

P.S. I am offering a FREE download of our "Silence Is Not an Option" (SINO) DVD and booklet. This vital training details exactly what pastors and churches can do politically. If we had consistently voted biblical values, rogue governors would not be illegally restricting churches today.

Normally, we offer these SINO materials for a $35 contribution. But time is short, and the enemy is on the attack. Arm yourself, your pastor and your church NOW, before it is too late!

Select here to get your "Silence Is Not an Option" download now.

As I mentioned above, a generous supporter has established a CHALLENGE GRANT which will effectively DOUBLE the impact of your donation today. Please don't let this opportunity to DOUBLE your effective support pass you by. America's pastors and churches are relying on YOU, a faithful Liberty Counsel supporter, to help ensure religious freedom remains FREE!