If you’ve spent any time in downtown Minneapolis, you’ve probably seen — and heard — Pastor Jason Lee Cooley. Cooley and his band of Christian “brothers” (women aren’t allowed since they are to be subservient to men according to his sermons) bring large, bright signs to sidewalks outside the city’s bars, concert venues, and festivals, and shout at people about sodomites, hell, and repentance. They are members of the Old Paths Baptist Church in Northfield, Minn., and they are bringing their brand of Baptist fundamentalism to the streets of the Twin Cities.
Old Paths Baptist church hails from Independent Fundamental Baptist strain of Christianity. There is no governing body or denomination. Debate rages among IFB churches as to whether it even constitutes movement. Though each church is completely autonomous, many exist after being “planted” by another church and they do share common themes.
John Shore, writing for Patheos, put together a comprehensive guide to understanding the IFB phenomena. Much of what Shore writes is reflected in Cooley’s Old Paths Baptist Church: radical evangelism, frequent overtures of eternal damnation for all who don’t follow the IFB brand of belief, and a particular antipathy for “sodomites.”
Old Paths Baptist dates back to 2007 when it was “planted” by First Baptist Church of Rosemount, another IFB church. Church planting is common among IFB churches — and Baptist movements as a whole.
Old Paths isn’t the only church planted by First Baptist. Over the last few years, it has been planting Northern Lights Baptist Church headed by Pastor Mike Frey. Frey made headlines around the country in 2013 when he testified at the Minnesota Capitol against marriage equality with a bizarre speech in front of a House committee. He sat at the table and began to describe ejaculation inside a colon, and the diseases he argued that gays would foist upon Minnesota’s unsuspecting public. “I urge you to vote against the changes inside this bill,” he said “because it’s going to put a health risk for the society at large and it’s going to put a financial burden on the people of Minnesota to be able to support all the diseases that will come out of this.”
According to the website, Old Paths is “planting” its own church in New Richmond, Wis. That church will be pastored by Pastor Russell Hildebrandt, who currently runs a church in Arlington Texas.
Last year, Cooley and the gang set up shop along Willow Street on the western edge of Loring Park as the Twin Cities Pride festival was underway. When it isn’t trying to crash LGBT Pride with messages of sin and damnation, the group of men target events such as a recent Madonna concert, engage in sidewalk preaching outside LGBT bars, and accost pedestrians on Nicollet Mall.
The preaching team includes Brother Nate Marino, Brother Russell Hildebrandt, Brother Jerald Finney, Brother Paul Pearson, Brother Lee Pongratz, and Brother Cooley (Pastor Jason Lee Cooley’s dad). They take turns shouting at people in the urban core, and preaching from the pulpit at the Northfield Senior Center, where the church is based. Some recent sermons include “The Intellectual Foundation for the LGBT Agenda: Freud, Jung, Kinsey, & Psychology,” “God Hates Gay Rights and Destroys Nations for Them,” “The Homosexual Invasion of the Churches,” “Sodomite Agenda: Public School Queering your Kids,” “Obama: Overhauling Straight America & The Homosexual Manifesto,” and “Supreme Court Obomination: A Prophecy of Perversion” (Cooley publishes several sermons a week at the church’s Youtube channel).
Cooley and his acolytes also run a radio program, though it appears to only exist online; no radio stations list it as a broadcast program. That program features topics such as “Special Report: Disney Pushes Pedophilia and Sodomite Teen Agenda,” and “Country Music: Hybrid Homosexual Honkytonk Music from Hell.”
The Column put this video together with clips from Old Path’s Baptist Church’s frequently updated social media channels:
If you see Cooley and the gang in the Twin Cities, send The Column a tip via our tipline, 612-314-LGBT or via our website.