Entry Category: Religion

Abba House

Abba House was established by the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock in 1981 to offer a home to pregnant women and their children who have no place to go. It also serves as an emergency shelter for homeless women. The thirteen-bed facility in Little Rock (Pulaski County) provides shelter, food, and clothing for the women, who may stay two to six weeks after giving birth until they find a place to live. The emergency shelter is available to the homeless for up to three weeks. The Missionaries of Charity sisters, the religious order established by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, have run Abba House since 1983. Four of the sisters live in a convent next to the shelter on South Oak …

Act 975 of 2015

aka: Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB975 of the 2015 regular legislative session) was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly and signed into law as Act 975 by Governor Asa Hutchinson. It closely aligns Arkansas law with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. Under the legislation, any governmental action in Arkansas that is a “substantial burden” to an individual’s free exercise of religion may only stand if it furthers a “compelling governmental interest” in the “least restrictive” manner possible. Like the federal RFRA, the Arkansas RFRA was meant to return to the “balancing test” established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sherbert v. Verner (1963) but overturned in the 1990 Employment Division v. …

Adler, Cyrus

Cyrus Adler was a scholar, editor, and Jewish leader with a lifetime commitment to the study of Jewish history and culture. He worked with a number of Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and had a strong influence on American Jewish culture during his lifetime. Cyrus Adler was born in Van Buren (Crawford County) on September 13, 1863, the third of four children of Samuel and Sarah (Sulzberger) Adler. His father worked as a merchant and manager of a nearby cotton plantation. Shortly after Adler’s birth, the Adler family fled the Civil War conditions in Arkansas and relocated first to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and later to New York. …

African Methodist Episcopal Church

The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after white Methodist Episcopalians at the city’s St. George Chapel forced those of African descent out of the congregation in 1787. This led to the dedication of the first AME chapel, Bethel AME, in 1794. However, the AME was not represented in Arkansas until 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Arkansas’s earliest AME congregation formed under the leadership of the Reverend Nathan Warren. Warren, reared a slave in the District of Columbia, arrived in Arkansas in 1819 with Robert Crittenden, who served as the first secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Upon Crittenden’s death in 1834, Warren purchased his freedom from the family, married, and lived as …

Alamo, Tony

aka: Tony Alamo Christian Ministries
Tony Alamo was a well-known evangelist who, after a radical conversion to Christianity, founded what is now called Tony Alamo Christian Ministries with his wife, Susan, later establishing its headquarters in Dyer (Crawford County). Widely regarded as a cult, Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was at the center of a number of lawsuits and government actions, and its leader was jailed on a variety of charges, including income tax evasion, the theft of his late wife’s body, and taking underage girls across state lines for sex. Much of the information on Alamo’s early, pre-conversion life is spurious at best, on account of Alamo’s constant exaggerations of his importance and/or sinfulness. He was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman on September 20, 1934, in …

Albert Krantz v. City of Fort Smith

aka: Krantz v. City of Fort Smith
Albert Krantz v. City of Fort Smith was a 1998 decision by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the distribution and posting of flyers and leaflets. In a ruling informed by the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of expression, the Court of Appeals deemed unconstitutional town ordinances enacted by Alma (Crawford County), Dyer (Crawford County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and Van Buren (Crawford County) prohibiting the leafletting of vehicles parked in public spaces. The case originated with the arrests of Albert Krantz and other members of the Twentieth Century Holiness Tabernacle Church after they left religious leaflets under the windshield wipers of vehicles parked in public parking areas in Alma, Dyer, Fort Smith, and Van Buren in the early …

American Missionary Association

The American Missionary Association (AMA) was a nondenominational abolitionist society dedicated to providing education and political rights to African Americans. Founded on the premise that denying citizenship to African Americans was a violation of the Declaration of Independence, the AMA sought to find solutions to what was called the “Negro problem” in a divided America. In Arkansas, the AMA focused its efforts on providing education to freedmen and women, seeking to train them to survive in the antebellum South. Although the AMA’s efforts in Arkansas lasted barely a decade, the educational push of the organization persists in several remaining educational institutions. The AMA was founded in Syracuse, New York, in 1846 through the merger of a group of abolitionists who …

Amish

The Amish have attempted five times during the twentieth century to develop communities in Arkansas. All five began with high expectations of other Amish joining them and establishing roots in the state nicknamed the “Land of Opportunity.” Although Amish were once scattered throughout the state, only a few Old Order Amish live in the state in the twenty-first century. The Amish can trace their roots back to the 1500s and the Anabaptist tradition. The Anabaptists were separatists who developed their own communities, believed in adult water baptism, and practiced pacifism. The men wore beards while the women wore long dresses and head coverings. One of their more controversial practices was that of shunning, the practice of avoiding and not speaking …

Anglicans

Arkansas Anglicans are individuals and parishes that, while having some historical connection with the Episcopal Church, have sought to disassociate themselves from it. This disassociation stems from a variety of theological and moral reasons, including such matters as the authority of the scriptures, the ordination of women, the introduction of a prayer book widely perceived as revisionist, and the ordination of a non-celibate homosexual man as bishop. Broadly speaking, Anglicans are Christians who identify themselves with the history and mission of the Church of England. The Episcopal Church was for many years the only Anglican presence in America. However, in 1873, several hundred evangelical Episcopalians, protesting departures from traditional worship practices, left to form the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), the …

Anti-Catholicism

Organized prejudice against Roman Catholics was a recurring theme in American history from colonial days through the early twentieth century, rising to a climax in the 1910s and 1920s. Nowhere was it greater in these years than in Arkansas. The renewed anti-Catholic movement began around 1910 as a response to a massive immigration of Catholics from Italy and Eastern Europe. Roman Catholicism had become the largest Christian denomination in the United States by this time. This immigration, however, largely missed Arkansas, a state with one of the lowest percentages of Catholic residents in the United States. A lack of knowledge or personal experience with Catholic neighbors provided ideal ground for the growth of an anti-Catholic movement. In 1912, a Missionary …

Anti-Semitism

Relations between Jews and the rest of the population were generally amicable throughout the South in the nineteenth century, if only because few Jews lived in the region. Although historians point to Abraham Block as the first member of the Jewish faith in Arkansas, when Block arrived in the 1820s, the nearest congregation to his family was in New Orleans, Louisiana—over 400 miles away. The first Jewish congregation in the state of Arkansas, B’Nai Israel in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was not founded until 1866. At this time, out of a state population of more than 450,000, the number of Jews stood at only 400. Most of these arrived to the United States with the great European migration of the …

Appeal of the Arkansas Exiles to Christians throughout the World

The “Appeal of the Arkansas Exiles to Christians throughout the World” was a plea for assistance written by twelve free African Americans expelled from Arkansas after the passage of Act 151 of 1859 (also known as the Act to Remove the Free Negroes and Mulattos from the State or Arkansas’s Free Negro Expulsion Act of 1859). The authors of the appeal left Arkansas on or about January 1, 1860, and arrived, with several others, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 3, 1860. The exodus from Arkansas displaced an estimated 800 free blacks from an approximate population of 1,000 who resided in the state prior to 1860. Of the 800 free blacks who were expelled, as many as 200 were believed to …

Arkadelphia Baptist Academy

The Arkadelphia Baptist Academy in Arkadelphia (Clark County) was one of many schools founded across the South by the American Baptist Home Mission Society, which was headquartered in New York. Beginning in 1865, the northern Baptists joined other denominations in the effort to educate the recently freed slaves across the South. In an article published in the New York Times in 1897, the society’s corresponding secretary, General Thomas J. Morgan, noted that, after the war, “the problem presented itself of the intellectual elevation of 4,000,000 human beings, just emerging from a degrading bondage.” During the thirty-two-year period between the end of the war and Morgan’s statements, the Home Mission Society had spent about $3 million, and its more than thirty institutions …

Arkadelphia Presbyterian Academy

Arkadelphia Presbyterian Academy, located in Arkadelphia (Clark County), was a co-educational elementary and secondary school operated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen. This board was part of the “Northern” Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), which founded schools for African Americans across the South after the Civil War. The board began opening schools for freed slaves as early as the 1860s, but the movement arrived late in Arkansas. It was not until 1889, when a new presbytery was organized in the state and large numbers of blacks from the eastern states were settling in Arkansas, that the board felt confident to begin its work in the state. The academy in Arkadelphia had earlier roots, however. According to historian Inez Moore Parker, it was …

Arkansas Baptist College

Arkansas Baptist College (ABC) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a four-year historically black liberal arts institution that was accredited in 1987 by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is affiliated with the Consolidated Missionary Baptist State Convention of Arkansas. In its quest to be a voice for the underrepresented student, ABC provides a quality education without charging out-of-state tuition fees. The vision of Arkansas Baptist College is thus: “To see our community, state, and nation positively influenced through the integration of academic scholarship and Christian principles to address issues having a detrimental effect on society.” Arkansas Baptist College was founded in 1884 by the Colored Baptists of the State of Arkansas. …

Arkansas Baptist State Convention

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) was organized at Brownsville, now Tulip (Dallas County), on September 21, 1848. Among the convention’s founders were William H. Bayliss, Nathaniel G. Smith, and George Ann Bledsoe. Bayliss, a lawyer and merchant who migrated from Tennessee to Arkansas in the 1830s, served as the first president of the convention. In creating the state convention, these leaders and their supporters were following a pattern, long evident in Baptist life in Europe and the United States, of local churches forming cooperative associations, with those associations sometimes forming larger conventions. It was hoped that the new convention would collect funds and inspire support for missions and education. The Civil War ravaged the nascent state Baptist organization; especially …

Arkansas Catholic

The Arkansas Catholic is the official newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock. It began publishing in 1911 as the Southern Guardian at the request of Bishop John B. Morris with Monsignor John Michael Lucey as editor. Bishop Morris intended the newspaper to be the “official organ” of the Catholic Diocese for the 22,000 Roman Catholics then living in the state at the time. The newspaper began as a weekly eight-page broadside newspaper with an annual subscription rate of $1.50. It was renamed the Guardian when “Southern” was dropped from the title in 1915. In 1986, the newspaper became the Arkansas Catholic. The paper has been associated with the Catholic News Service since 1923. Editorship changed several times over the …

Arkansas Christadelphian Bible School

The Arkansas Christadelphian Bible School was founded in Martinville (Faulkner County) in 1923 as a two-week summer Bible school for Christadelphians. The organizers were Ben Scroggin and S. O. Jones of Biscoe (Prairie County), Oscar L. Dunaway and Charles Martin of Conway (Faulkner County), and J. S. Martin and J. R. Frazer of Little Rock (Pulaski County). The purpose of the school was Bible study for Christadelphians, their children, and interested friends, in tandem with recreation and fellowship. The school was established upon land donated by James Daniel Martin, a Christadelphian. In 1885, Martin erected a pavilion on his land at Cadron Cove (Faulkner County) for the purpose of holding Christadelphian gatherings. The community was renamed in 1887 for Martin …

Arkansas Holiness College

Arkansas Holiness College (AHC), founded in 1904, was the focus for a body of Wesleyan holiness believers who congregated for nearly three decades in Vilonia (Faulkner County). The preaching of Methodist evangelists Beverly Carradine and H. C. Morrison at camp meetings held at Beebe (White County) in the 1890s spurred a holiness association in Vilonia composed of Methodists and Free Methodists. Members of the association formed a grammar school that opened in 1900 under the direction of Fannie Suddarth, a teacher (and later minister) from Kentucky. The school added grades and academic levels, including a Bible department in 1905, when the Reverend C. L. Hawkins came to head the school. The name Arkansas Holiness College was adopted at this time. …

Arkansas Methodist Medical Center

Arkansas Methodist Medical Center (AMMC) in Paragould (Greene County) provides healthcare for residents of northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri. As of 2009, AMMC has more than eighty active and courtesy physicians from family practice to multiple specialties. A total staff of nearly 700 healthcare professionals works in a 400,000-square-foot facility. Salaries alone have an annual economic impact of more than $26 million. By the 1930s, Dickson Memorial Hospital in Paragould was past its prime. With combined support from citizens and the Paragould City Council, a donation of land by Joseph Bertig, and federal assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), construction on a new hospital began in 1941. The new facility was seventy-five percent completed when the beginning of World …

Arkansas Right to Life

Arkansas Right to Life is a nonprofit organization whose stated purpose is to “educate through the presentation of detailed and factual information about fetal development, abortion, alternatives to abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and related issues, upon which individuals and the general public may make informed decisions.” The organization is mainly known for its stance against abortion, but members also actively oppose stem-cell research, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Arkansas Right to Life is a state affiliate of National Right to Life, which was founded in 1968. The Arkansas chapter was officially incorporated as a nonprofit public organization in 1974, the year after the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion in the United States. National Right to Life and …

Assemblies of God

The Assemblies of God is an evangelical, Pentecostal organization that was founded in Arkansas in 1914. It has grown to be the largest Pentecostal organization in Arkansas and around the world. Assemblies of God adherents in Arkansas now number approximately 40,000, while the worldwide count has grown to over 62 million people. The modern Pentecostal revival generally traces its roots to a prayer meeting held at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, on January 1, 1901. Thirteen years later, after considerable growth and the phenomenal Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, leaders from the churches that had emerged during this time recognized the need to organize in order to ensure doctrinal purity, allow for the formal recognition of ministers, …

Bahá’ís

The Bahá’í faith originated in Persia (present-day Iran) in the mid-1800s as a movement within a minority sect of Islam led by a man known as the Báb (whose name means “the gate”). After his execution by Iranian leaders, one of the Báb’s followers, a man known as Bahá’u’lláh, became the leader of the movement and claimed to be the Messianic figure written about by the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh established the Bahá’í faith as a new religion and, after many exiles, was finally sent to Akka, Palestine (in present-day Israel), where he spent the remainder of his days. Bahá’u’lláh appointed his son, `Abdu’l-Bahá, to assume leadership of the Bahá’í faith upon his death. Central tenets of the Bahá’í faith include the …

Bales, James David

aka: J. D. Bales
From 1944 to 1980, James David Bales was a professor of Bible and theology at Harding University (formerly Harding College) in Searcy (White County). Both in public and in print, Bales earned a national reputation as a fearsome debater of theological issues and political ideologies, becoming especially well known for his anti-communism stance. J. D. Bales was born on November 5, 1915, in Tacoma, Washington, the fifth of eight children. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Albany, Georgia. Bales was eleven when a train struck and killed his parents. Bales went to live with his paternal grandparents in Fitzgerald, Georgia, until 1930 when he enrolled in the Georgia Military Academy (now Woodward Academy) in College Park, Georgia, where …

Bandini, Pietro

Father Pietro Bandini is most widely remembered in Arkansas for the 1898 founding of Tontitown (Washington County), located in the northwest corner of the state, which he named after Henry de Tonti, an Italian explorer who established, with René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the first European settlement in Arkansas in 1686. However, the founding of Tontitown is but a regional capstone on a life spent working for the betterment of Italian immigrant communities in the nation. Bandini was born on March 31, 1852, in Forli, which is in the Romagna region of Italy. Little is known about Bandini’s family, described as of the upper class and refined. He is known to have had two older brothers, one of whom …

Baptist Health

Baptist Health, Arkansas’s largest healthcare system, has hospital campuses in Little Rock (Pulaski County), North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Arkadelphia (Clark County), Stuttgart (Arkansas County), and Heber Springs (Cleburne County). In addition to its medical centers, it also operates therapy centers, physician clinics, a retirement village, and a school of nursing and allied health. Baptist Health began in 1919 when the Arkansas Baptist State Convention voted to create a modern scientific hospital in Little Rock. The Baptist State Hospital opened with seventy-five beds in November 1920. In its first year of operation, the hospital treated 1,026 patients. Dr. J. S. Rogers was appointed superintendent of the hospital. The Baptist Health School of Nursing also began in 1920 and graduated its first …

Baptists

Baptists make up the largest Protestant Christian group in Arkansas, characterized by the practice of baptism, usually by immersion, on profession of faith in Jesus Christ. They exhibit great diversity in customs, but most Baptists have congregational polity combined with voluntary interconnection of congregations. They also emphasize autonomy (self-governance) of congregations, associations, and conventions. Leading Baptist groups in Arkansas are the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (Southern Baptist), National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., National Baptist Convention of America, and American Baptist Association. Baptist Denominations  Southern Baptists are members of congregations affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which formed in 1845 in a split over slavery. (Anti-slavery Baptists, mostly from the North, objected to the practice of Baptist missionaries taking their …

Biltz, Joseph Henri

The Reverend Joseph H. Biltz, a Roman Catholic priest and human rights activist, was a staunch supporter of social and Church reform in Arkansas. His outspoken advocacy for reform brought him into direct confrontation with both religious and civil authorities. Joseph Henri Biltz was born on May 29, 1930, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Maurice Biltz and Hilda Rumbach Biltz. He studied philosophy at St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1951. He then completed four years of additional study in theology and was ordained by the Catholic Church in 1955 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. He went on to earn a master’s degree in theology (1957) and a doctorate in moral theology (1962) from the …

Blake, Charles E.

Charles Edward Blake Sr. is the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). He is also pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which has a membership of more than 25,000. In addition, Blake founded Save Africa’s Children, which provides orphan care programs across the continent of Africa. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Charles E. Blake was born on August 5, 1940, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Junious Augustus Blake and Lula Champion Blake. His father was a native of Camden (Ouachita County) who pastored various churches throughout Arkansas before moving to California. Charles Blake was ordained a minister himself in 1962. He received a BA …

Block, Frances Isaiah Isaacs (Fanny)

Frances (Fanny) Block was the matriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to what became the state of Arkansas. After courtship and the start of a family in Virginia and New York, Block and her family moved to southwestern Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Her willingness to forgo the stability of a religious community on the East Coast and move her family west allowed the family to establish a regional mercantile empire that included businesses in places such as Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. Fanny Block and her family …