Rev. Ken Pagano, Pastor of New Bethel Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month for August.
In nominating the clergyman for the CCRKBA Award, John M. Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, said that, “Rev. Pagano has rendered tremendous service to those of us who believe firmly in the individual Second Amendment civil right of law-abiding American citizens to keep and bear arms. When he held an open carry service at the church to commemorate the Fourth of July and the Second Amendment, he indicated loudly and publicly that the ownership and use of firearms by decent citizens is a good and laudable practice. He showed that it is as American as apple pie, if not even more so. His public, articulate and church-centered defense of gun rights countered the phony claim of some clergymen of various religious persuasions that there somehow is something wrong in the possession and use of rifles, shotguns and handguns.”
“It was as peaceful as a family picnic, maybe even more so because everyone seemed to agree – it is time, they said, to stand up openly for gun rights, even in church, which is where they stood today,” reported The New York Times.
About 180 people came to the church on the last Saturday afternoon in June, noted the newspaper, “some of them wearing side arms, many of them saying ‘Amen,’ as Ken Pagano, the pastor, spoke from the sanctuary stage in front of a large wooden cross.”
Pastor Pagano preached, “We want to send a message that there are legal, civil, law-abiding intelligent people who also own guns” in an hour and a half program that emphasized gun-safety. “There is nothing to be afraid of from a legal firearms owner.”
Rev. Pagano, according to press reports, was not wearing a firearm during the service. However, Rev. Charlie Hinckley, who like Rev. Pagano was until recently an Assembly of God preacher, but at another church, and who joined Rev. Pagano at the platform, did wear his caliber .380 Smith & Wesson on the belt of his jeans. After the program, Rev. Hinckley said it was the first time he had worn his handgun into church. When a reporter asked him if he felt weird doing so, he replied, “No, considering what we’re here for.”
Before the event actually took place, Rev. Pagano said he got a lot of criticism from people who disagreed with him. “This is like I’m driving down the highway and doing the speed limit of 55 and people are honking and making obscene gestures because I’m obeying the speed limit. I’m not doing anything that’s illegal, unbiblical, unhistorical or unconstitutional, but people still want me to justify it.”
In the run-up to the church celebration, Rev. Pagano noted the church was welcoming “responsible gun owners” to wear their handguns inside the church, scene of a handgun raffle, patriotic music and information on gun safety.
“We’re just going to celebrate the upcoming theme of the birth of our nation,” said Pastor Pagano. “And we’re not ashamed to say that there was a strong belief in God and firearms – without that this country wouldn’t be here.” He noted that guns must be unloaded and that private security guards would check visitors at the door.
Under Kentucky law, residents of the state may carry guns in public with some restrictions.
A Marine veteran and police chaplain, Rev. Pagano repeatedly has been forthright in defending the right to keep and bear arms. He told at least one reporter that one cannot defend a person’s First Amendment right to religious liberty without the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
“We love God, we love our country,” he told an applauding crowd. “Without a belief in God, without a belief even in firearms, I don’t believe this country would be here the way it is today. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Ken has served as an assistant pastor in a small, rural church plant, as well as a staff pastor for a mega-church in Louisville. He was pastor of a rural community church for eight years, paying off two mortgages, seeing the church grow to the 200 mark. He travelled nationally as an evangelist for six years until becoming New Bethel Church pastor in 2000.
Ken has a Doctorate of Ministry Degree. He attended Boyce College, Campbellsburg University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and Covenant Seminary.
He and his wife, Dana, have been married since 1982.