Mission Messenger, Vol. 17 (1955), No. 3
LEROY GARRETT JAILED
Leroy Garrett has been signally honored by Freed-Hardeman College. Through the machination of the president of that human organization established to do the work of God's church, he has been permitted to join that illustrious company which includes Peter, James, John, Paul, John Bunyan, Alexander Campbell, and a host of others who were cast into prison rather than surrender their convictions. On the last day of the FHC lectureship, Brother Garrett was thrown into a dirty, stinking dungeon cell as the result of a warrant issued for his arrest by H. A. Dixon who failed to browbeat him into submission in the privacy of his own office. Brother Garrett, whose only offence was talking about God's Word with preacher students on the campus was led away by an armed guard. In company with a fellow-prisoner he was made a public spectacle at meal time, being taken to a restaurant by police who sat with revolvers strapped to their sides.
Leroy was invited to attend the lectureship to which he went on the last day. At a purportedly open forum, presided over by Guy N. Woods, he asked a question relating to the usurpation of the prerogatives of the church by the school. The chairman, forgetting his supposed role as an unbiased moderator, took the lead in diverting the meeting into a personal attack on Leroy and Bible Talk. At the close of the session, numerous students gathered about to ask questions. One preacher student requested Brother Garrett to come to his room in the dormitory, on which he paid rent, to continue talking about the word of the Lord. The president, who with other members of the faculty had already sought to cow Brother Garrett into lickspittle subservience with little success, issued a warning to him to discontinue discussing with brethren and friends on the campus. A policeman came. with a warrant, which he reluctantly served in the presence of many patrons of the school.
Seeing that the bluff had not worked, for it was apparent they had intended to scare him away by threats, the school officials came to the jail and tried to work out a compromise by which he would be freed if he agreed not to discuss the college any further. When he refused and chose to remain in jail, they stamped from the office of the mayor where the conference had been arranged, in apparent rage. Bro. Garrett remained in the cold, barren cell through the night, praying and thanking God that he could thus suffer for Christ. The following day, realizing the enormity of what had been done, President Dixon paid all the costs, including the charges for two meals served at county expense, and Bro. Garrett was set free. Legal counsel advised that suit could be brought against the school for thousands of dollars.
What Does This Mean?
In Freed-Hardeman Alumnograms, several years back, G. K. Wallace wrote on "Why I like Freed-Hardeman College." Among other things he said: "The spirit of open free discussion of all issues in Freed-Hardeman College is another feature that impresses me. Where else in all the world do you find a complete open forum of any question that is to be discussed? . . . I have spoken openly and freely upon the college question, orphan homes, bobbed hair, civil government, or any other question I cared to discuss. Sometimes these discussions brought about open debate in the 'round table discussions' and in the period set aside for debates, but at no time did anybody suggest that I should not discuss any question. . . . When the day comes that open and free discussion, not wrangling, is taken from periodicals published by brethren, and free discussion from before students of various schools, we will be enslaved. Certainly no harm can come by discussion of issues, void of personalities, through the press and from the pulpit, before the brethren who are interested in the cause of Christ. Let freedom of speech remain among us."
What a wonderful change in his life hath been wrought! This man who spoke of "discussion of issues, void of personalities" is the very one who, when driven to desperation in attempting to defend this very school in the Paragould debate, dipped his tongue in inky venom, and sought to destroy his opponent. He resorted to cartoons and caricatures of his respondent's person, and sunk to depths unparalleled before in discussions between brethren.
This man, who speaks with regret of the day that "open and free discussion . . . is taken from periodicals published by brethren" is the newly acquired staff writer of a one-way, dead-end journal, whose frightened, trembling editor has debarred from its pages the least semblance of reply from humble men viciously attacked therein by journalistic character assassins. Lest there be any question as to what paper we refer, let it be known that we speak of the Gospel Advocate. It's editor is B. C. Goodpasture, and G. K. Wallace is a regular contributor. But the greatest change is in the attitude of Freed-Hardeman College. Here is a "Church of Christ School," a theological seminary, specializing in the preparation of a clergy for the fastest growing denomination in the United States, and it jails a humble disciple for discussing the Bible on its sacred precincts. This incident is no disgrace to Brother Garrett, but it clearly marks out what has happened to the churches dominated by this religio-secular institution. G. K. Wallace said that when this day came "we will be enslaved"! There it is, as "certain of your own prophets hath said."
Freed-Hardeman College has no right to exist to do the work it is doing! It is a trespasser upon the functions of God's church, a usurper and transgressor. It can offer no scriptural defence, so it must resort to jail bars and armed guards to stifle righteous criticism. This is a black day in the history of the sectarian "Church of Christ." It will never be forgotten,. for the day that the iron door swung shut upon Leroy Garrett in that Tennessee jail, the ponderous door of fate also clanged shut on another era in the history of the Restoration Movement. For the first time in decades there have arisen among us. crusaders against the arrogant power of the clergy who will be neither intimidated by threats, enticed by gold, nor frightened by power politics. We have set our faces toward Jerusalem's walls and we shall not be turned back! Our brethren must be delivered from the slavery into which G. K. Wallace has said they would come, and into which he has helped to bring them.