August 19

I don’t usually share historical notes which come within my lifetime, but with this I’ll make an exception.

In January 1954 Quebec’s Premier Duplessis introduced “Bill 38” which amended the “Freedom of Worship Act.” It basically declared that to take one’s religion out of the church building and into the community through open air preaching, distribution of tracts and visiting door to door was illegal.

The Roman Catholic hatred of the gospel has always existed in Quebec and has not gone away even in the enlightened 20th century. For example in 1950 a group of Baptists gathered just off Main Street in La Sarre and began singing “What can wash away my sin?” when an unruly crowd instantly gathered blowing horns, using loudspeakers, and screaming obscenities. Fruit and eggs were thrown. When the police arrived, they arrested the Baptists and let their attackers walk away.

Then on this day (August 19) in that same year (1950) three special officers were sworn into service by the La Sarre Police Department. Their purpose was not to maintain law and order but to silence the local Baptist pastor and his membership if they should continue to publically proclaim Christ on the streets of the city.

One night this group of believers took up their usual place and began singing a hymn. The chief of police with his three special helpers arrived, seized the pastor and dragged him away, telling him to get into his car and leave. When the pastor returned to the meeting, he asked if he was going to be arrested even though he had every right according to Canadian law to continue. He was informed that he would not be arrested, but then he was attacked by two of the special officers and driven to the ground under a rain of fists. When this took place the Baptists picked up their wounded and left. This occurred on four other occasions.

During the first half of the 1950s Baptists were arrested and jailed across Quebec, Among the better known were Wilson Ewin, Lorne and Murray Heron and William Phillips. These and other Baptist pastors served 45 sentences for daring to preach the Word of God publically.